International Serious and Organised Crime Conference 2013

Concurrent session 2a—Legal frameworks: Disrupting organised crime: An examination of criminal association laws and their effectiveness

Dr Terry Goldsworthy, Assistant Professor, Criminology, Bond University

Ms Robyn Lincoln, Assistant Professor, Criminology, Bond University

Forms of ‘criminal association’ or ‘anti-bikie’ laws have been introduced in four Australian jurisdictions and the recent High Court decision upholding their constitutionality will ensure that they remain part of our justice landscape. Similar kinds of ‘anti-gang’ laws have operated in various states in the United States and in Canada for some years. Generally, the aims of these laws are to declare a specific organisation as ‘criminal’, to impose control orders that hinder the consorting of members and to exercise enhanced powers to confiscate unexplained wealth. There have been significant criticisms of these styles of association laws both here and internationally. Some of the negative claims are that they are ineffective and that they contravene civil and political rights. In addition, there are concerns about the secret gathering of criminal intelligence, undisclosed hearings and the operations of ‘public safety orders’.

The analysis presented here is twofold—an examination of the legal ramifications and an evaluation of the investigative utility of such laws. This presentation examines the legislative framework (with an emphasis on the Criminal Organisations Bill 2009 in Queensland) from a national and international perspective. Drawing on this legal background, the presentation then provides criminological evidence about the likely effectiveness of these laws in dealing with the organised criminal activities of outlawed groups (ie an exploration of the links with money laundering, illicit drug distribution and serious violence). The presentation then canvasses the potential for this legislation to provide any additional useful investigative tools for police to disrupt organised criminal networks.