New Zealand Law Society - Law Society welcomes Select Committee report on Gangs Legislation Amendment Bill

Law Society welcomes Select Committee report on Gangs Legislation Amendment Bill

The New Zealand Law Society Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa recently submitted on the Gangs Legislation Amendment Bill. Last week the Select Committee reported back on the Bill, accepting six of the Law Society’s recommendations.

In April, the Law Society made a submission on the Gangs Legislation Amendment Bill with input from its Criminal Law Committee and Human Rights and Privacy Committee. The Bill seeks to improve public confidence in law and order by creating new offences and giving police more powers that target gangs. This includes making it an offence to display gang insignia (patches) in public.

The Select Committee reported back last week, accepting the following recommendations:

  • Removing the ‘support for a gang’ component of the gang insignia definition.
  • Amending clause 7(1) to read “a person commits an offence if the person, without reasonable excuse, knowingly displays gang insignia at any time in a public place.”
  • Amending clause 9 to refine the term ‘disrupting other activities’ in the context of dispersal notices.
  • Expanding the review grounds in clause 18 to include revocation of a dispersal notice where the Commissioner of Police is satisfied that the individual subject to the notice is not in fact a gang member.
  • Amending clause 16 to shorten the timeframe specified for a decision on an application to vary a dispersal notice, to allow for decisions to be made in time for attendance at time-sensitive events such as tangis and funerals.
  • Amending clause 19 to require personal service of the application for a non-consorting order.

The Law Society had also urged the Select Committee to consider inserting a mandatory review process which could assess how the Bill has been applied (and to whom) and whether it has been effective in meeting its objectives. Concerns were raised in the Law Society’s submission about the lack of evidence supporting the measures proposed by the Bill.

Additional concerns were raised about the impacts of the proposed legislation on civil and human rights obligations. The Law Society agreed with the Attorney-General’s report under section 7 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 that the Bill unjustifiably breaches the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association and freedom of expression However the Law Society suggested that the report understated the level of rights infringement, while overstating the benefits that are seen to justify that level of infringement. It also raised concerns about the discriminatory impact the Bill may have upon certain communities, including Māori, when applied.

The Bill will now go to its second reading where the House will consider the Select Committee's report and recommended amendments.

Read the Select Committee’s report on the Bill

Read the Law Society’s submission