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Bikies won’t talk to crime commission

November 29, 2009

Bikies won’t talk to crime commission

BIKIES are widely ignoring coercive powers that Victoria’s police chief says are crucial in controlling their gangs.

The number of people refusing to answer Australian Crime Commission questions jumped more than 400 per cent so far this year.

Chief Commissioner Simon Overland said last week Victoria did not need tough anti-association laws favoured by most other states to deal with bikie gangs because our police had coercive powers.

But ACC chief John Lawler told a federal parliamentary committee hearing in March that bikies were “effectively thumbing their noses at the powers of the commission”.

At ACC examinations from July to last month 26 witnesses refused to answer questions, gave false or misleading answers, obstructed examination, or refused to take the oath. In all 2008-09 it was 18 and 11 in the previous year.

The ACC told a federal parliamentary committee this month that members and associates of outlaw motorcycle gangs “tend to be particularly unwilling to co-operate in the examination process”. Mr Lawler said the ACC believed motorcycle clubs had told members not to co-operate, despite the risk of being jailed for up to five years.

The number of people refusing to co-operate had affected investigations by the ACC and its partners.

The maximum penalty for failure to co-operate with an ACC examination is five years’ jail but the highest penalty imposed since it was set up in 2002 was 2 1/2 years’ jail for giving false or misleading evidence.

Mr Overland said although South Australia was touted as having the harshest laws, “they don’t have coercive powers – we do”.

Deputy Commissioner (Crime) Ken Jones told the Herald Sun that, post-Purana, the Victorian police force was well positioned to “take these people out”.

“We prefer to take this on in a more individual-centric way, rather than an associative way,” Mr Jones said. “You need to tackle the individual in my opinion. It’s a far more effective technique. We’re up against a pretty sophisticated group, particularly at the hardest core of it, and we need to be as flexible and dynamic as we know they are”.

The Herald Sun revealed last week that the notorious interstate bikie gangs the Comancheros and Finks were setting up their first chapters in Victoria – in Richmond or Port Melbourne.

Mr Lawler said outlaw motorcycle gangs represented “a real and present danger to the Australian community”.

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