A high-ranking motorcycle club member is facing court after a brawl at Wallsend in the Hunter Valley just before Christmas – and police are talking tough, promising to crackdown on club members in the region.
Police attended the scene on December 9, where they say a group of men were fighting with weapons including a baseball bat. Police charged a member of the Finks motorcycle club with ‘affray’, ‘use of an offensive weapon with intent to commit a serious indictable offence’ and ‘custody of an offensive implement in a public place’.
The man was refused bail and will appear in court in the coming weeks.
Strike Force Raptor flexes its muscle
Strike Force Raptor was established in New South Wales in 2009 after a brawl at Sydney airport between rival gangs the Comancheros and Hells Angels which left one bikie dead.
The squad is made up of officers who are trained to target motorcycle clubs and their members with a range of powers and laws at their disposal, including planning laws, tax laws and anti-consorting laws.
Police are also empowered to use Firearms Prohibition Orders, Public Safety Orders and Serious Crime Prevention Orders to target, control and in many cases harass motorcycle club members.
What is consorting?
Consorting is where a person habitually associates with two or more convicted offenders.
Section 93X of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) says that consorting occurs when a person:
- Habitually consorts with ‘convicted offenders’, and
- Consorts with those ‘convicted offenders’ after being given an official warning in relation to consorting with each of them.
This official warning means that police must tell you that the person is a convicted offender and warn you that consorting with them is an offence.
The maximum penalty is 3 years imprisonment and/or a $16,500 fine.
What does habitually mean?
It means that the person must have consorted with at least 2 convicted offenders – either at the same time or different occasions; and the person must have consorted with each of them at least twice.
There are some defences to consorting, including if they are a family member, or if it is for lawful employment, training or education. It is also a defence if the association happens during the provision of health services, legal advice or to comply with a court order. It also excludes any associating that happens within lawful custody.
A ‘convicted offender’ does not include all people with criminal records, but it does cover anyone who has been convicted of ‘indictable offences’ – which are generally those that come with a maximum prison term of over 2 years.
Most offences contained in the NSW Crimes Act are indictable offences.
The Hunter Valley branch of Strike Force Raptor says it has warned several club local members about consorting and acting upon tensions with other clubs.
Since early December 2016, the strike force has served three of a planned 28 firearm prohibition orders, seizing 18 guns from members of the Finks and Rebels motorcycle clubs and their partners, flatmates and relatives.
“We make no apology for the increased enforcement,’’ Northern Region operations manager Detective Inspector Greg Thomas said.
“The region commander has a very strong opinion on lawfully enforcing legislation that is particularly relevant to outlaw motorcycle gangs.”