New laws to hit drug traffickers and crime gangs

Offenders convicted of serious drug offences such as large scale drug trafficking or cultivation will forfeit almost everything they own under tough new laws being introduced to the Victorian Parliament this week.

The new forfeiture provisions will apply on top of the 14 year average jail term offenders will face under the baseline sentencing legislation currently before Parliament.

Under the new laws, there will be no need to prove that the offender’s property came from the proceeds of crime or was used to commit a crime.

Instead, upon conviction these serious drug offenders will lose everything they own, whether lawfully acquired or not, save for basic household goods and tools and a modestly priced vehicle.

An order restricting disposal of an accused’s property will be able to be obtained at the time they are charged, and will remain in place until the outcome of their trial or until the charges are withdrawn.

“Drug traffickers are peddlers of death and misery, who wreak a terrible toll on young lives across our state,” Premier Denis Napthine said.

“Those behind the mass distribution of ice and other drugs across our state need to be hit hard.”

Attorney-General Robert Clark said the laws will send a strong message to would-be drug traffickers that crime will not pay in Victoria.

“Not only will they go to jail for a long time, they will lose almost everything they own. Any financial gain drug traffickers may have stood to make will be wiped out,” Mr Clark said.

The legislation will also strengthen the powers of police to tackle bikie gangs and other criminal organisations involved in drug trafficking and other serious criminal activity, and restrict gang members from holding firearms licences.

Orders to ban or restrict gang activities will be able to be made based on any offences punishable by five years’ imprisonment or more where the court is satisfied that the gang or its members are engaged in or facilitating such criminal activity and an order is necessary or desirable to prevent or reduce a serious threat to public safety and order.

The laws will also stop gang members escaping the law by quitting one gang and ‘patching over’ to another.

Restrictions will be able to apply to gang members even if they quit the gang, and if two or more members from a declared organisation join another gang, their new gang will automatically be deemed to be involved in criminal activity without need for further evidence, opening the way for their new gang to also be banned or restricted where police can demonstrate the new gang poses a threat to public safety and order.

Individuals subject to a control order will be banned from holding a firearms licence, and any other members of a declared organisation will be presumed not to be fit and proper persons to hold a firearms licence unless they can show otherwise.

Other changes will strengthen the powers of the Chief Examiner to conduct compulsory examinations of persons believed to have information about organised crime offences.

“The Coalition introduced Victoria’s first anti-bikie gang laws after the previous Labor government refused to act,” Mr Clark said.

“We are now moving to strengthen those laws even further, picking up on experience in Queensland and other states, as well as drawing on a growing body of Victoria Police experience in tackling these gangs.

“Unlike Labor, we will not allow Victoria to become the soft underbelly of bikie gang crime in Australia.

“These changes are a further demonstration that the Napthine Government is committed to strong action to tackle drug traffickers and criminal gangs,” Mr Clark said.