Recent high profile incidents involving members of outlaw motorcycle gangs have attracted the attention of the media, law enforcement bodies and legislators across Australia. A recent indecent sparked public debate about the rising crime associated with OMCGs in Australia, amid fears that the incident could ignite an all-out war between members of rival motorcycle gangs. Mechanisms for achieving justice in relation to OMCGs
Recent media attention and public concern following some of the violent OMCG related incidents have resulted in important, and unprecedented, legislative responses. In addition to legal responses, responses of the public and interested groups have helped to shape the approach to OMCGs around the country. One of the difficulties encountered by police in dealing with OMCG criminal activities is that prosecuting for individual crimes can seem inadequate to deal with the widespread nature for the problem.
The police work and the evidence required to prosecute the individual crimes on a case-by-sae basis is time consuming and resource intensive. This is especially true with OMCGs, where a 'code of silence' among club members, combined with a fear of speaking out on the part of both victims and other people associated with the clubs, means that the evidence needed to convict will be very difficult to obtain. Convictions of only those individuals who can be proved to have committed those crimes can have little impact on the wider organisational nature of OMCG activities.
As a result, most jurisdictions in Australia have in place legislative frameworks that focus more on criminalising the types of activities that OMCGs might be involved in, and that target the businesses and profits of those activities. Another legislative response in Australia has been to provide greater powers to law enforcement agencies to prevent, investigate and disrupt OMCG or other organised crime activities. This often involves the setting up of special law enforcement agencies, or task forces, with special powers to investigate and prosecute the more serious crimes.
Some of these special powers are controversial because they increase the traditionally accepted power of government and law enforcement agencies. They provide certain powers to police, such as coercive powers to compel witnesses to give evidence that are normally held only by the courts. Then these powers are allowed, they will usually require a high degree of oversight to ensure they are not abused. Such laws raise important issues about the separation of powers.
Due to reported increases in OMCG activity in recent years, in 2006 the Australian Crime Commission recognised OMCGs as a high risk crime group and established the OMCG National intelligence Task Force to investigate OMCG membership and activities and established national policies to address the issues. In 2008 the task force was replaced by the Serious and Organised Crime National Intelligence Task Force. Laws targeting organisation and membership Probably the most controversial approach to OMCGs is the introduction of laws that target or criminalise the clubs themselves rather than the individual crimes committed.
In effect, this approach outlaws motorcycle gangs in the true sense. This approach is most contentious where the law attempts to criminals individual membership or association with such clubs. There are a number of fundamental legal difficulties with this approach and no two jurisdictions in Australia approach the issues in the same way. The difficulties concern questions of precisely how and by what process a group is defined as criminal and what level individual involvement is criminalised. Media coverage, and the ability of media reports to shape public opinion, has played a crucial part in political responses to OMCGs.
Violent incidents related to OMCGs are widely covered by the print and broadcast media, and politicians are often keen to reassure the public that they are being tough on crime. This is most evident in the rapid response of the NSW government, following the Sydney Airport murder, to strengthen organised crime laws. The media have enabled public discussion of the advantages and drawbacks of the laws being propose, and they have the power to influence the way the issues are dealt with by legislatures and the police.