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Labour Looking Into South Australia's Gang Laws

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Annette King
Annette King

Wellington, Jan 13 NZPA - As the Government prepares legislation giving police stronger powers to deal with gangs, Labour Party leader Phil Goff is in Australia discussing the latest moves to deal with the problem across the Tasman.

Justice Minister Simon Power yesterday told NZPA he would bring a bill to Parliament next month proposing several new measures to help control gangs.

They will include making gang membership an aggravating factor in sentencing and new powers to deal with gang fortifications.

Mr Goff, Labour's deputy leader Annette King and chief whip Darren Hughes are in South Australia talking to authorities about controversial legislation which gives the attorney-general the power to declare a gang a criminal organisation.

It is about to be tested in court through an application to the South Australian attorney-general to declare a motorcycle gang a criminal organisation.

The previous government became interested in the South Australian legislation in September last year, when Mr Goff was corrections minister and Ms King was justice and police minister.

They discussed it with South Australia's Premier Mike Rann when he visited Auckland, and said they were considering introducing similar legislation in New Zealand.

But no further moves were made, and at the time Mr Power berated ministers for being lazy about gangs.

Mr Goff said today he had undertaken to follow it up and was now taking a closer look at it.

"The new South Australian legislation sets out unashamedly to make life as difficult as possible for gangs involved in crime," he said.

"In Australia, the gangs are at the core of organised crime, involved in blackmail, extortion, serious violence and drug trafficking. In New Zealand it is the same."

Mr Goff said if the South Australian legislation proved to be effective similar laws should be introduced in New Zealand.

"Police figures in New Zealand show that 75 percent of those caught trafficking in drugs are gang members and associates," he said.

"The legislation is justified not by the simple fact that there are gangs, but by the purposes for which those gangs are created and the criminal activity they are involved in."

The South Australian legislation was introduced in July last year and under it:

* The attorney-general has the power to declare a gang a criminal organisation;

* Police can then apply to the courts for a "control order" on identified members;

* A control order bans those members from associating with specified people, being in certain places and possessing particular items;

* Police can also issue "public safety orders" restricting gang members from entering certain places or events;

* People are banned from associating with someone subject to a control order more than six times a year, with a potential five-year prison penalty; and

* It is an offence for people with specified criminal convictions to associate with other people with the same convictions more than six times a year.

NZPA PAR pw nb

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