Jarrod Bleijie says top cop ‘silenced’ over VLAD laws

Queensland’s former attorney-general Jarrod Bleijie claims the state’s police commissioner has been “silenced” by the Labor Government for not talking up anti-gang laws introduced in 2013.

The Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment laws, which impose longer jail terms for organised criminals, were introduced by the former Newman Government as part of its strategy to crack down on bikies.

However the laws were put under review by Labor, and recommendations for changes are due by December 18.

On Thursday, Commissioner Ian Stewart was asked if the VLAD laws had an impact on crime rates, at a press conference with current Police Minister Jo-Ann Miller.

“I can’t answer that question specifically,” he responded.

“The VLAD Laws have not been used very often, although we have invoked them. They are the laws of this state and we will continue to use whatever lawful means we have to take action against organised crime, including outlaw motorcycle gangs.

“Certainly I haven’t restricted our officers using any law in this state, and that’s how it should be.”

Unimpressed, Mr Bleijie, now the shadow police minister, accused Mr Stewart of backing away from previous public comments about the VLAD laws.

He said Mr Stewart “heaped praise” on the laws during an ABC interview in August and discussed the positive results during Estimates hearings.

“But unfortunately today it seems – and you can ask the questions – but it seems that he was silenced because he was standing next to the minister,” Mr Bleijie said.

On August 20, Mr Stewart appeared before the Legal Affairs and Community Safety estimates committee and said current laws, including VLAD, had “been an important component of the fight against organised crime in this state.”

On Thursday evening, Ms Miller rejected Mr Bleijie’s claims that she silenced Mr Stewart.

“The Commissioner is free to say whatever he likes, whenever he likes, whether he’s standing next to me or not,” she said.

While a large number of people have been arrested under the VLAD legislation, prosecutors have often dropped charges in court and only a handful have actually been convicted.

The VLAD laws were introduced weeks after the notorious 2013 Broadbeach Brawl, threatening gang ringleaders with a potential 25 years added to jail sentences. Coupled with other laws that banned three or more criminal gang members meeting in public, the Newman Government claimed the crackdown was driving bikies to hand in their colours or leave Queensland.

The United Motorcycle Council and Hells Angels member Stefan Kuczborski lost a High Court bid to have the laws overturned, but vowed to continue their legal challenge.

After Labor took power in January, the new government delivered on its promise to review the laws. They are now before a taskforce chaired by former Supreme Court Justice Alan Wilson QC.

On Thursday, Mr Bleijie continued his pitch for the laws his former government introduced.

“The reality is they’re working,” he said.

“The thing that will see these crime statistics blow up, and again have crime back in our state, is when they get rid of the VLAD legislation, the criminal gang legislation.”

Source: Brisbane Times