Monday 4 March 2024

"If a group is intimidating the public, they can and should be arrested; no matter what they are wearing. If they are wearing patches and not threatening the public they should remain outside the reach of the law."

"At issue is a plan to ban gang insignia being worn in public ... A common complaint against similar laws is to ask the question; if the state is permitted to force known undesirables to change their clothes, what will stop them from forcing restrictions on the more respectable?
    "My position is more fundamental; the state should not be telling some of the worst members of our society what to wear because the state should not tell anyone what to wear. ...
    "Gangs are a form of power that operates outside the limitations we have attempted to impose on governments. ... I support most of the actions being taken to reduce their power, including membership being an aggravating feature at sentencing and non-association orders where there is some judicial oversight. Of course, being a libertarian columnist, I’d be delighted to see the end of drug prohibition, which is what gives these groups their economic power. ...
    "But I cannot bring myself to accept a ban on gang livery.
    "If a group is intimidating the public, they can and should be arrested; no matter what they are wearing. If they are wearing patches and not threatening the public they should remain outside the reach of the law.
    "It is intolerable to uphold the liberties that we expect for ourselves to those who would delight in our destruction. I do not deny this; nor the human desire bring these people to heel.
    "But because we can, does not mean we should ..."

~ Damien Grant, from his column ''The state should not tell anyone what to wear'


Tom Hunter said...

Aside from the depressing civil liberties aspects this also provides a depressing indication that, so far, Mitchell and perhaps the Police, have no idea how to actually disempower the gangs so that they become less of a menace to society.

Given the crime they indulge in, primarily the crimes that make them money, I would have thought that the resources of the State, with all that spying capability for one thing, could do the job of smashing their systems and putting key figures in prison. Why bugger around with risky things like poor bloody undercover constables when the gangs uses cellphones and other tech to do their stuff.

On the violent crime front perhaps some change to laws could be made to specifically go after the young gang members who maim and kill "civilians" to earn their patch, treating those as violent crimes different in nature to similar ones that have other motivations? Could be tricky, but recruits might become less keen to sign up if they were looking at twenty years in the clink. It would also have the effect of gradually aging out the gangs - although you're average 60 year old Mongrel Mob member is probably still capable of inflicting a lot of physical damage on a person.

Duncan Bayne said...

I'm not sure I agree with this. Not being mealy-mouthed here - I'm still thinking it through.

Could the act of wearing a patch constitute intimidation, that is, a credible threat of violence?

A genuine gang patch is a pretty clear statement of intent. It's proclaiming that you consider yourself an "outlaw", and belong to an organisation that routinely uses criminal means including murder, arson, and kidnapping to achieve their ends.

Gangs routinely use violence of threats of violence to suppress criminal complaints, coerce witnesses, and so forth. Would you respond differently to lawbreaking by a patched gang member than a regular member of the public? If so, haven't you just been intimidated?

MarkT said...

Duncan: If membership of a gang per se is considered criminal because their prime function is crime, and there's enough objective evidence to support that, then any members of said gang should be arrested regardless of what they're wearing. In most cases they know who they are. On the other hand if only some gangs are sometimes criminal (i.e. the evidence is insufficient to take that position against any and all gangs), then wearing a gang's clothing shouldn't be criminal.

Tinman said...

Sir, I would agree if I considered, or you could convince me, that a gang "patch" was clothing

It is not. It is a sign designed to intimidate. It is only "clothing" if anything people wear, watches, rings, jewellery, a tan is also classed as "clothing".

Originally that sign was to intimidate other gangs' members but has been used for a long time now to intimidate the general public.

The sign is in fact no different than, for instance, a button stating: "Jews Killed Christ" or a T-shirt bearing the words "All Muslims Are Terrorists".

I have no doubt you, nor the apparently (based on his recent output) rather confused Mr Grant would object strongly to two examples being publicly displayed.

I and many others, strongly object to a sign being worn that says: "Do as I say or my friends may injure you."

Peter Cresswell said...

@Tinman: It's not within government's legitimate ambit to police clothing, or signs.

The only legitimate question to be answered for pre-emptive police action would be: "Does X constitute an objective threat." If 'X' were, say, my neighbour setting up a machine-gun nest on my boundary, then there's clearly a strong case for pre-emptive action (but, properly, I'd still need to argue that in a court of law). But a bit of cloth with a picture of a fist on it? Not so much.

Physical intimidation itself is a threat — as is an actual threat, or an actual call for physical violence — and as such should of course be policed. As any good police force SHOULD be doing., and should have been doing for some time. There's no need to violate free speech to police those violations of legitimate law.

As Mr Grant says "If a group is intimidating the public, they can and should be arrested; no matter what they are wearing. If they are wearing patches and not threatening the public they should remain outside the reach of the law." They need the former (they think) only because they're unwilling to properly tackle the latter. But they should.

MarkT said...

That seems to be the exact right wing version of the left wing argument against ‘hate speech’. Forget objective threats, it makes me fearful, therefore it should be criminalised to protect me from my fear.. I wonder, what’s a good term for the right wing version of what we call ‘snowflakes’ on the left?