Lawyer representing motorcylce gang The Finks, Bill Potts, speaks to media in Brisbane, Thursday, March 14, 2013. The High Court today cleared the way for police in Queensland to continue with their bid to have a bikie gang declared a criminal organisation, ruling that state laws did not infringe on the constitution.
Lawyer representing motorcylce gang The Finks, Bill Potts, speaks to media in Brisbane, Thursday, March 14, 2013. The High Court today cleared the way for police in Queensland to continue with their bid to have a bikie gang declared a criminal organisation, ruling that state laws did not infringe on the constitution. DAVE HUNT

VLAD laws 'oppressive and unAustralian', says lawyer

AS Queensland's controversial "bikie" laws are set to be reviewed by a commission of inquiry later this year, our four-part special report looks into the impacts of the legislation since its introduction in 2013.

This is Part 3: The Legal Impacts
 

PROMINENT criminal lawyer Bill Potts has predicted the mandatory sentencing enshrined in the VLAD laws will be dispensed with.

Mr Potts, who has represented outlaw motorcycle gang members in high-profile cases, said he believed the sentencing reforms were falling into disrepute because they were viewed by the general public as "oppressive, unfair and, quite frankly, un-Australian".

Offenders charged under the VLAD laws face mandatory prison sentences of 15 years, and at least 25 years if a gang office bearer.

"The sentences ... are draconian and out of any proportion to the offending (the law) purports to deal with," Mr Potts said.

He said the legislation was also fundamentally unsuited to serve its main purpose, which was to deter crime.

"There is no evidence-based finding or proof that such penalties will in fact defer people," he said.

MORE: 

Retired judge warns too early to review VLAD laws

New commission to shift focus off bikie gangs

"The simple reality is that when you put a one-size-fits-all straightjacket of mandatory sentencing, then the court's discretion to take into account the individual circumstances of the case is taken away and what is left is injustice."

But former LNP attorney-general Jarrod Bleijie, who led the Newman government's legislative fight against bikies, has stood by the sentencing reforms and said there were provisions in place to reduce sentences if deemed appropriate.

"Mandatory sentencing is an important part of the legislative response to tackle crime gangs, as it sets strong deterrents," Mr Bleijie said.

"However, if an individual charged with a particular offence co-operates with police and this information is deemed useful, then a court can reduce the mandatory sentence.

"This provision was built into the legislation as a safeguard, but also to assist law enforcement agencies gather more intelligence on other criminal gangs and their criminal activities."

Joshua Robin Rohl, 31, who was the first person convicted under VLAD in June this year, had his sentence reduced to five years - suspended after 18 months - as a result of his co-operation with police.

Rohl, while not a bikie, was deemed to be a member of an organised crime body, and was convicted for his role in smuggling $16 million worth of cannabis on commercial flights between Melbourne and Brisbane.

ENDNOTE: Bikie Laws - The Fallout is a collaboration between Australian Regional Media and students of Bond University.

READ MORE: 

Serious crime was falling before VLAD but gangs suffering

Teens being recruited to fill bikie gang gap

Bleijie believes $129m spent on bikie laws was justified

Venues claim VLAD laws thrust them into bikie conflict



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