WA Bill on Unlawfull Consorting and Prohibited Insignia Introduced

Thursday 18 November 2021 @ 10.00 a.m. | Crime | Judiciary, Legal Profession & Procedure

The Criminal Law (Unlawful Consorting and Prohibited Insignia) Bill 2021 (WA) ('the Bill') was introduced into the Legislative Assembly on 14 October 2021, by Attorney-General John Quigley ('the AG').

According to the AG's second reading speech, the Bill proposes to introduces a package of reform that:

"... will deliver on the McGowan government’s commitment to target serious and organised crime... [The reforms proposed by the Bill are intended] to disrupt and restrict communication and networking between offenders, criminalise the display of insignia of identified criminal organisations and disrupt the ability of members of identified organisations to gather in public places."

Furthermore, the AG claims:

 "The reforms in the bill will make Western Australia the jurisdiction with the toughest and most comprehensive laws in the country to fight serious and organised crime. These laws will make Western Australia the most inhospitable jurisdiction for serious offenders and criminal organisations to operate or expand their criminal activities."

The Bill summarises that the proposed new laws would —

  • "make consorting unlawful between certain offenders;
  • prove for the identification of organisations for the purposes of this Act;
  • prohibit the display in public places of the insignia of identified organisations;
  • provide for the issue of dispersal notices to members of identified organisations;
  • make any consorting contrary to a dispersal notice unlawful;
  • provide for police powers relating to unlawful consorting and the wearing of the insignia of identified organisations; and
  • consequentially amend the Community Protection (Offender Reporting) Act 2004 (WA) and the Criminal Code (WA)."

Key Features of the Bill

The Bill has three key parts. The first is the proposed Part 2 of the Bill which contains the "unlawful consorting scheme". This scheme intends to disrupt and restrict the capacity of offenders to engage in conduct that is criminal in nature. This scheme would do so by criminalising association and communication between offenders.

This scheme would  encompass certain types of offenders, including:

  • child sex offenders;
  • declared drug traffickers (within the meaning of section 32A(1)(c) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 (WA));
  • persons who have been convicted of an indictable offence; and
  • persons convicted of specified offences set out in Part 3 of the Bill.

The second key part is Part 3 of the Bill which contains the "prohibited insignia scheme and dispersal notice scheme" which target identified organisations and their members.

Reforms targeting criminal organisations and their members are also proposed, including a "prohibited insignia scheme". The Bill's Explanatory Memorandum, ('the Bill's EM') explains that this scheme would:

"criminalise the display of the insignia of identified organisations in public places and will empower police to modify or remove such publicly displayed insignia".

The Bill also seeks to introduce a "dispersal notice scheme". The Bill's EM explains that this would allow:

"the WA Police ... to issue the suspected members of identified organisations gathered in a public place with a dispersal notice requiring them to cease associating and communicating for 7 days. These reforms will ensure that the community is better protected from the risk of intimidation and violence by members of identified organisations."

The third key part is Part 4 of the Bill containing the "monitoring and oversight functions" which will be exercised by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administrative Investigations, namely, the Ombudsman.

The Bill is currently at second reading stage in the Legislative Council.

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Criminal Law (Unlawful Consorting and Prohibited Insignia) Bill 2021 (WA) and additional explanatory materials available from TimeBase's LawOne Service

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