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Changes to the law - tougher or softer on crime?

Overnight, the Queensland Government passed the Serious and Organised Crime Legislation Amendment Bill 2016. This will see significant changes to in excess of 30 pieces of legislation.

The changes are in response to the recommendations of two separate reviews and a commission of inquiry by the Government into organised crime.
These were undertaken by the:

• Queensland Organised Crime Commission of Inquiry (the Commission);

• Taskforce on Organised Crime Legislation (the Taskforce); and

• Statutory review of the Criminal Organisation Act 2009 (the COA Review).

Commentators were quick to opine that the changes are ‘watering down’ or ‘getting soft’ on organised crime in QLD. There are actually notable changes to the legislation that one could argue are quite the opposite. There are a number of offences that now attract higher maximum penalties than before, including fraud, drug offences, and child exploitation offences; members of outlaw motorcycle clubs are no longer allowed to wear colours in public (previously, there were only forbidden from wearing them in a licenced premises); and consorting laws have been created.

It is important to note that this bill is a result of three separate reviews into the laws passed by the Newman Government. Whilst those laws were being passed as a knee jerk reaction to singular incidents in the community, these reviews, and their subsequent recommendations were conducted and made by senior representatives from the Queensland Police Service, the Queensland Police Union, the Queensland Police Commissioned Officer’s Union of Employees, the Queensland Law Society, the Bar Association of Queensland, the Public Interest Monitor, the Department of Justice and Attorney-General, and the Department of the Premier and Cabinet. With such a vast representation of stakeholders, the changes will no doubt be much more considered and focused than the laws implemented in 2013.


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