Thursday, April 25, 2024

Luxon dismisses criticism over Government’s gang crackdown

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The coalition Government plans to pass a law banning all gang insignia in public places. File photo supplied

Prime Minister and Botany MP Christopher Luxon is batting off criticism from commentators who say his Government’s plan to ban gang patches is unenforceable.

He was questioned on the policy by the news media during his post-Cabinet press conference at the Beehive in Wellington on February 26.

The Police and Justice Ministers announced last week the Government will introduce legislation that will ban all gang insignia in public places and give police the power to stop criminal gangs from gathering in groups and communicating.

Police officers will be able to issue dispersal notices, which require gang members to immediately leave an area and not associate with one another for seven days, while the courts will be able to issue non-consorting orders to stop specified gang members from associating or communicating with one another for up to three years.

The law will also be changed to give greater weight to gang membership as an aggravating factor at sentencing, enabling judges to impose more severe punishments, the Government says.

On Monday reporters told Luxon community leaders in one North Island town had said his gang crackdown won’t work as gang members won’t hand over their patches and they aren’t afraid of the police.

He was asked if he was confident the policy would work and about what advice he’d received from police that they would be able to enforce the law when it comes into force.

Luxon said the Government was going to do something different because what’s been happening “hasn’t been working”.

“I make no apologies for it. We cannot have a situation where there is a 51 percent growth in gangs, a 33 percent growth in violent crime, and the answer is, ‘Let’s just carry on doing exactly what we’ve been doing’.

“So I’m sorry, no apologies, tough decision, but we’re going to do something different.

“So we are going to ban the gang patches. We are going to give police powers and more tools for dispersal and consorting.

“We are going to make gang membership an aggravating offence. We’re going to deal with illegal firearms with firearm prohibition orders.

“So you know, I’m sorry, but we campaigned on this for over two years. We talked very clearly about why it’s a problem.

“Kiwis deserve to feel safe in their own homes, their businesses, their communities. That’s what we’re going to deliver.”

Luxon was also asked if the Government would press ahead with the new law if it was found to breach the Bill of Rights Act (BORA).

“There is no doubt about it, gangs’ rights are going to be impinged by this legislation,” he said.

“We get that. We’re happy with that, because frankly the benefit or the … social costs they cause through criminal activity is something that’s well worth doing.

“There’ll be obviously a process where the Attorney-General will come through with a BORA assessment as happens with every piece of legislation, but I … want to be really clear.

“We have a notion in this country built on rights and responsibilities.

“So gang members want all the rights of being a Kiwi [but they’re] not prepared to carry the responsibilities, causing pain, suffering to all their fellow Kiwis as you saw.

“Last year, we saw a mother and a daughter hiding in a coffee shop in the middle of the day in Palmerston North as gangs went at it in the main street. So I’m sorry, the counterfactual’s pretty clear.

“Carrying on doing more of the same doesn’t cut it, and we’re going to try something different.

“We’ve seen it work in Western Australia. We’re going to give it a go here and we’re going to do what we need to do.”

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