Outlaw bikies’ fightback campaign
NATIONAL Rebels Outlaw Motorcycle Gang (OMCG) boss Damian Vella may have lost his extraordinary High Court challenge against anti-bikie laws but in a legal twist the outcome could actually help him and other bikies.
Authorities across the country are watching the unfolding Vella legal drama with interest with implications for bikies nationally looking to legally hit back at police deploying restrictive powers to break-up OMCG networks.
The legal question now will come down to how far police can define what constitutes a suspicion or intelligence of future serious crime to warrant shaking up bikie club houses and restrict member movements.
In a hearing in the High Court last week involving the solicitors general acting for Attorneys-General from NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, WA and the Commonwealth, Vella and his high-profile legal team argued the Crimes Act (Serious Crime Prevention Orders) was inconsistent with his human rights and judicial powers defined under the constitution.
Under the Act, a court could make preventive orders against anyone convicted or suspected of criminality without proof if they reasonably suspect it would disrupt their activities and protect the public.
In the case of Vella as Rebels national president and his bikie colleagues Johnny Vella and Michael Fetui, they'd been prohibited for two years from any contact with any OMCG members or functions, travelling in "any vehicle" between 9pm and 6am, having more than one mobile phone or accessing encryption apps.
The trio lost their bid to declare the move unconstitutional, and have to pay sizeable court costs, but the court judgment now provides guidelines for how the anti-bikie laws can be applied, Vella's alleged misuse of which in NSW can now be argued in the Supreme Court. Given similar laws exist in other state jurisdictions, the judgement may also provide some limitations on its use hence the review by all state solicitors general.
Vella's lawyer Adam Houda declined to speak about the case today but said while he was disappointed with the outcome it was not over.
"I am not at liberty to discuss the case at the moment but we are certainly seriously considering the judgement," he told True Crime Australia, adding the case did now have implications for others in similar circumstances.
The matter is to go back before the NSW Supreme Court next year.
Vella, known as "Big D", assumed the national control of the Rebels after his uncle Alex Vella was left stranded in Malta since 2014 after having his Australian residency visa cancelled.
According to court papers, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller and his anti-bikie Strike Force Raptor squad moved on the three Rebels based on convictions.
Both Damien and Johnny Vella were convicted in 2008 of robbery and three offences of obtaining a valuable thing by deception.
Johnny also has a 2001 conviction for larceny.
Fetui was convicted of resisting arrest in 2010, affray in 2011, assault occasioning actual bodily harm in 2015 and last year another set of convictions for resisting arrest and affray.
Critically the two Vellas were also charged with assaults for which they were acquitted and also for shootings with intent to murder in 2006 before the charges were dropped and Fetui for affray, with the charge later withdrawn as well as acts intended to cause grievous bodily harm, participating in criminal organisations, serious organised crime and affray all this year in Queensland with criminal proceedings pending.
The legal question for them is whether these allegations which either did not proceed or were yet to be heard could be used by police under the Serious Crime Prevention Orders to further shake up the bikie clubs.
Vella was represented in his High Court challenge by high profile barrister Jeremy Kirk SC, who notably recently appeared for the ACCC against Volkswagen and Audi over the diesel emissions scandal and Suncorp in the Banking Royal Commission.
Mr Kirk would not return calls this week.
According to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australia has 39 OMCGs considered as hard core "One Percenters", including 4760 fully patched members, 957 prospects and 4585 associates.
The Rebels account for about half the national total.