Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Your right to die in a bikie war shootout


AT A guess you could probably assume that none of the High Court judges live in Merrylands, where the Nomads and Hells Angels are engaged in what the police reassuringly describe not as a bikie gang war but merely "tit for tat violence". It is also unlikely that any of these eminent jurists live in Northmead, where an innocent woman had her house strafed with bullets while she was sleeping last week in a zany address mix-up by a bikie who was having trouble reading his UBD. Presumably, none of the judges live in Adelaide's north-western suburb of Semaphore where an 11-year-old boy, the son of a former member of the Finks, was shot in the leg while he slept during a home invasion last month. When the ambulance arrived and the media turned up, bricks were hurled from the home. None of the witnesses to the shooting of the 11-year-old boy would initially co-operate with the police. It was reported however that the Finks had offered their own reward of $500,000 for information on the identity of the shooter. This shooting and its unco-operative aftermath reinforced the fact that members of bikie gangs do not look to the police and the courts for assistance. That's what civilised and law-abiding people do. To this end the police, and particularly the courts, are letting civilised and law-abiding people down. None of the High Court judges could find Merrylands or Semaphore with a packed lunch, a GPS and a team of indigenous trackers. And even the cops seem depressingly ambivalent about what is going on in middle Australian suburbs such as these. Perhaps it was just an unfortunate choice of words but NSW Gangs Squad commander Arthur Katsogiannis seemed too laid-back by half on Sunday in discussing the bikie shootings in Sydney's west, a staggering eight of which have taken place since last Thursday. "If this was a full-scale war between the Nomads and the Hells Angels you would not have the shootings isolated at one particular area, they would be right around the metropolitan area and around the state," he said. No dramas then. But it is the courts which really take the cake on this issue. Just over a year ago the High Court had a chance to seriously disrupt the freedom of bikie gang members to behave in an anti-social and criminal manner. Bombarded by civil libertarian tripe, the court opted to throw in its lot not with the civilised and law-abiding majority but the one per cent "who don't fit and don't care" - to borrow from the Hells Angels' own mission statement. The NSW and SA governments had both passed legislation which would have declared bikie gangs criminal organisations and enabled police to seek orders from magistrates preventing bikies from associating with each other and visiting certain addresses. But this invited the tediously predictable criticisms from academics and defence lawyers along Basil Fawlty lines that this is exactly how Nazi Germany started. One academic warned there was nothing stopping the authorities from using the same laws against the local lawn bowls club or Apex or Rotary. Andreas Schloenhardt, from the University of Queensland law school, fired up at the time: "This legislation is dangerous ... There is little in the legislation that can stop the Attorney-General from banning a bowling club." Certainly that could have been a handy application, in the event that the ladies' four stopped making scones and started manufacturing methamphetamine. But none of this is funny if you live in Ermington or Merrylands or Northmead or Semaphore and are busily keeping your head down, literally, as the "tit for tat violence" continues. The High Court had its chance to make the community safer and it blew it. The NSW and SA laws would have disrupted the lawlessness which has continued and reached a new crisis point since last Thursday and opted instead, on the basis of some legally arcane pedantry about usurping the authority of the Supreme Court, to strike down those laws. Meanwhile the cops are doing a cracking job standing behind police cameras and raiding pubs to make sure no one has had more than four standard drinks, and the High Court judges are happily ensconced in those suburbs where the Nomads and Finks and Hells Angels tend not to tread. People in normal suburbs must deal with that on their own.

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