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Queensland’s ‘War on Bikies’ and the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act, 2013

The Queensland Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act, 2013 (‘VLAD Act’) introduces an unprecedented mandatory sentencing regime.

Under the new legislation, people who are defined as vicious lawless associates will automatically have to serve fifteen (15) years in prison in addition to the standard sentence for their offence. If they are deemed to be an office bearer of a relevant assoication, they will automatically be required to serve twenty-five (25) years in custody addition to the standard sentence.

Worse still, the mandatory additional sentences of imprisonment must be imposed even if the person is not sentenced to a period of imprisonment for the original offence and unless the person becomes an informer, they will not be eligible for parole during the additional sentence term.

Brisbane Barrister, Anna Cappellano, says “Contrary to the political spin, the extensive mandatory detention powers in the VLAD Act are not limited in any way to alleged ‘criminal bikie gangs’. You do not have to be a member or associate of one of the 26 motorcylce clubs that have now been declared as criminal organisations to be classed as a vicious lawless associate”. Accordingly, under the new mandatory sentencing regime, average citizens could be looking at increased sentences of imprisonment in breach of fundamental civil liberties.

Under the VLAD Act, a person is declared to be a vicious lawless associate if three (3) conditions are satisfied. Those conditions are as follows:-

  1. The person commits a declared offence under Schedule 1 of the Act. The listed offences include offences such as affray, riot, assault occasioning bodily harm, stealing or receiving a firearm and possessing dangerous drugs.
  2. The person was a participant in the affairs of a relevant association when the offence was committed. Relevant associations include any corporation, unincorporated association, club, league or group consisting of three (3) or more persons. The definition of a relevant association does not contain any requirement that the association, group, corporation or club, as the case may be, engage in any illegal activity.
  3. The act that constitutes the declared offence was committed in the course of participating in the affairs of the relevant association.

If these conditions are satisfied, a person is deemed to be a vicious lawless associate unless they can prove that engaging in certain offences is not one of the purposes of the relevant association. Significantly, this reverses the usual onus on the Prosecution to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt, and instead requires the charged individual to prove their innocence.

The introduction of the VLAD Act was accompanied by amendments to the Queensland Bail Act, 1980. Now if a Defendant is a participant in a criminal organisation, a Court must “refuse to grant bail unless the Defendant shows cause why the Defendant’s detention in custody is not justified”. This is the case regardless of whether the offence committed is a summary offence, a regulatory offence or an indictable offence.

For more information on criminal law generally, contact Brazel Moore Lawyers on (02) 4324 7699.

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