New laws target criminal gangs’ fortifications

Legislation allowing police to remove fortifications from property used by criminal gangs and outlaw motorcycle groups was introduced to the Victorian Parliament today.

Announcing the further crackdown on criminal organisations, Premier Denis Napthine said the Victorian Coalition Government was continuing its strong law and order agenda.

“We made a commitment to the people of Victoria to get tough on crime and this legislation will give police further powers to crack down on criminal organisations and outlaw bikie gangs,” Dr Napthine said.

“Serious and organised crime is an ongoing threat to public safety and criminal gangs use fortifications to facilitate and protect criminal activity. Fortifications can also be used to delay police from lawfully entering a property while evidence is destroyed or hidden.

“These new laws will allow Victoria Police to apply to the Magistrates’ Court for an order to have fortifications removed from gang property.

“When an order is made, the owners or occupiers must remove the fortifications at their own expense. If they fail to do so, the police can enter the premises and demolish or remove the fortifications using whatever means are necessary.

“The cost of any removals will then be recovered from the property’s owner or occupier,” Dr Napthine said.

Attorney-General Robert Clark said the Magistrates’ Court could make an order whenever it is satisfied there are reasonable grounds to believe that the premises are being used, have been used, or are likely to be used in connection with a serious offence.

“The very presence of these fortifications can be a visible threat to community safety, sending a message that some people consider themselves above the law and able to act with impunity to further their criminal activity,” Mr Clark said.

“This Bill makes it clear that these criminal gangs are not above the law and that police have strong powers to take action when offenders seek to use fortifications to shield their criminal activities.”

The order can require the removal of any structure or device that could prevent uninvited entry to the premises if it is beyond what is reasonably necessary to provide security for the ordinary lawful use of that kind of premises. This can include not only physical barriers, but also electronic surveillance devices, such as closed-circuit TV, night vision cameras or motion sensors.

Mr Clark said removal notices would provide for a three month compliance period for fortifications to be removed with the order to then remain in force for a further year.

“While an order is in force, police will be able to inspect the premises to ensure that the fortifications have been removed and that no other fortifications have been erected,” Mr Clark said.

“Police will also be able to seek an order from the court to undertake further inspections during a three year period after the removal order ceases.

“Labor failed over their 11 years in office to take action to allow criminal bikie and similar gangs to be outlawed and their fortifications removed. The threat posed by these organised crime gangs is now plain to all – drug production and trafficking, violence, blackmail, extortion, intimidation and arson.

“The Coalition Government committed to act to tackle these problems, and with this legislation and our Criminal Organisations Control Act introduced last year we are delivering on our commitment,” Mr Clark said.