A barrister who’s been stripped of government work has taken aim at Queensland’s new bikie laws, saying they make the state look ridiculous.
A senior barrister says Queensland’s anti-bikie laws make the state look ridiculous.
In a scathing address at a lawyers conference on the Gold Coast, Stephen Keim said the Newman government’s laws breached human rights.
Mr Keim has already sparked tension with the government after pointing out he was stripped of government work after publicly criticising its sex offender laws.
The barrister said the government’s Vicious Lawless Disestablishment Act (VLAD), which makes a gathering of three or more bikies or their associates unlawful, was aptly named.
“It may well impale the hopes and dreams of generally law-abiding families on a stake of injustice,” Mr Keim told the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) Queensland conference, referencing Vlad the Impaler.
He argued the laws, which impose mandatory minimum sentencing of 15 to 25 years, breach article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil Rights and other human rights principles.
“But I think one of the worst things that the legislation does is it makes the law, the legislation, the government, our state, us – it makes us look ridiculous,” he said.
“That – if not a crime – is at least a sin.”
He referred to the arrests of the Yandina 5, a group of five men who met for a beer at a Sunshine Coast pub, and another group of five who were buying ice cream on the Gold Coast during a family holiday.
He was also critical of other aspects of the laws, including harsher bail provisions.
But the barrister was particularly disapproving of the laws that prevent people working – by refusing them an electrical licence for instance – because they have been linked to a criminal organisation.
“If people are prevented from earning a living, eventually they have to steal bread,” he said, suggesting the laws would increase rather than prevent crime.
Mr Keim said Premier Campbell Newman’s political strategy was simplistic.
“(There is) so much bad governance in his assault on good governance that no one has time to discuss it and it is hard to remember it all”.
Other presenters were also critical of the government, with ALA Queensland President Michelle James issuing a call to arms in the wake of Mr Newman labelling lawyers “hired guns” who were part of the “criminal gang machine”.
“Our profession has come under unprecedented and sustained attack from the Queensland government,” she told delegates.
“I challenge each of you to stand up for our profession with the same tenacity you display with standing up for your clients by continuing to express your concern and disapproval of such unfortunate commentary.”
Meanwhile, the Labor opposition won’t commit to repealing or keeping the bikie laws but has promised an independent judicial inquiry.
Labor introduced its own, less severe, laws back in 2009 and supported the LNP legislation late last year.
But Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk says flaws in the LNP’s approach have become very clear.
“I will set up an independent judicial inquiry to fully examine these laws, listen to expert advice and implement laws that target outlaw criminal motorcycle gangs, not innocent riders,” she said.
Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said the state’s solicitor-general Walter Sofronoff, QC, had helped draft the anti-bikie laws.
“These laws are firm, but they are fair, and they are working,” he said in a statement.
“We have always said that debate is healthy.
“We’re focused on making Queensland the safest place to raise a family.”