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ALA slams knee-jerk anti-bikie laws

ALA slams knee-jerk anti-bikie laws

The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) has welcomed the High Court's rejection of the 2009 NSW anti-bikie legislation as "invalid".Speaking to Lawyers Weekly after yesterday's (23 June) decision,…

The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) has welcomed the High Court's rejection of the 2009 NSW anti-bikie legislation as "invalid".

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly after yesterday's (23 June) decision, ALA director Greg Barns said the ruling upheld the principle that courts cannot be used by the executive or parliament in a way that removes fundamental human and legal rights of individuals.

"This is what happens when you get legislation that is passed in the heat of the moment, where the legislature does not listen to impartial and rational voices like Nick Cowdery, the former DPP of NSW, and others who warned against the potential for abusive power," said Barns.

The laws, introduced in 2009 by former NSW premier Nathan Rees just 12 days after the deadly bikie brawl in Sydney Airport, gave the NSW Supreme Court the power to outlaw bikie gangs and force members to avoid each other or face up to five years jail.

This is the second set of anti-bikie laws stuck down by the High court. The first were South Australia's non-association laws last year because they compel judges to give an order rather than make a decision based on evidence.

Based on the anti-terror laws, Barns said the legislation represented "the most fundamental breach of human rights this country has seen since the Second World War".

"The laws themselves were insidious because they could be used against any organisation that the government or police want to prescribe, such as environment organisations or trade union groups," he said.

"You live in hope that the legislators will think about laws that infringe on individual rights much more seriously than they have done today, in a way that provides people fairness, equity, the right of appeal and the right to know what information is being used against them."

NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith said he will now look at drafting legislation to address the High Court's concerns and that the decision wouldn't stand in the way of the government's crackdown on organised crime.

Barns is adamant that Australia already has a sufficient number of laws to deal with organised crime and said discussion should be directed to "why we continue to criminalise drugs and not treat them as a health issue".

A recent report from an international commission on drug policy (which includes former heads of state and a former UN Secretary-General) argues that the global war on drugs has failed.

The 24-page paper released on Thursday argues that governments should end criminalisation of drug use, experiment with legal models that would undermine organised crime syndicates and offer health and treatment services for drug-users in need.

Stephanie Quine

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