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Saturday, 8 October 2011

COVERED in tattoos and hurling bricks at the media after the shooting of his 11-year-old son, bikie Mark Sandery symbolised public fears about outlaw motorcycle gangs.

01:41 | ,


Mark Sandery. Source: Supplied

Even if his anger at the reckless attack last weekend at Semaphore was understandable, Sandery's violent reaction was frightening.

It had all the hallmarks of the anti-social bikie gang member.

While the Finks were quick to deny that Sandery was a member, that the shooting had anything to do with bikies, or that they had put a bounty on those responsible, the incident highlighted how the gangs have survived State Government's vows to wipe them out.

The Government is now working up a second attempt to smash bikies after the High Court ruled core elements of its controversial anti-association laws invalid.

Attorney-General John Rau will introduce revised legislation.

However, gang insiders and the state's legal fraternity claim the war on bikies has been counter-productive and drawn bikies together against a common enemy - the Government.

Hours after November's ruling Finks, Gypsy Jokers and Descendants shared drinks and stories at Gouger St's Talbot Hotel in a remarkable and rare display of unity.

For years, the cosmopolitan strip had hosted gang battles, including a 2008 shootout where dozens of bystanders had to dive for cover.

The new Serious and Organised Crime laws again target the gangs at the institutional level. It concedes traditional laws have failed to wipe out extortion, drug trafficking, assault and arms dealing, which police say are rife in the clubs.

Instead it tries to prevent the gangs from existing at all, declaring them outlaw.

The new legislation hopes to overcome the High Court's objections, which were based on the fact the Attorney-General effectively instructed the court to make the declaration.

This time it shifts the power to declare gangs to be criminal outfits from the politicians to the Supreme Court.

It will be broad enough to apply to groups including the New Boys and Gang of 49. It retains several controversial elements including the lack of ability for a defendant to sight or challenge secret evidence against them gathered by police.

It also shifts much of the onus of proof onto the defendant, rather than their accuser.

Mr Rau has expressed discomfort with curtailing long-established legal rights, but says it is a necessary evil in fighting a greater one.

"We are still shocked by violent crimes and many people do not feel as safe as they should," he said. "This means more has to be done. Organised criminal groups are responsible for much of serious community crime.

"Although random acts of violence can never be entirely eliminated, organised criminal activity can be and must be hit hard."

But a senior bikie told The Advertiser that prominence given to the war on gangs had boosted membership and enticed many disenfranchised young men with an even harder edge than the older generation. Those "rebellious" men sometimes operated outside the accepted bikie club culture which made them unpredictable and difficult to control.

"A mate said to me that if the cops just left us alone we would have just about died out and gone away by now," the source said.

Sandery publicly quit the Finks, but under the new laws he could struggle to prove that before a court. The retrospective nature of them means past activity can be used as evidence for issuing a control order and having one removed would be difficult.

A clause in the new laws also means anyone wearing gang colours or tattoos at the time of an offence "will be presumed to be participating in the criminal organisation".

Law Society SA President Ralph Bonig said the new Serious and Organised Crime laws were legally cleaner than those which came before, but more objectionable in principle.

"In terms of an overall general invasion of people's rights and rights of association, it goes much further than the first round," he said.

"The breadth of the powers could capture people who have never been engaged in serious criminal activity, because they're in a gang or may have had minor criminal activity."

He flagged new challenges from gang members seeking to have the laws struck down on civil libertarian or human rights grounds.

"The question is: Is this about tackling serious and organised crime or is this about giving law enforcement agencies extensive powers to curtail and to limit people's general rights?" Mr Bonig said. "I would say it's about the latter and it should be about the former."

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