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BIKER NEWS: Focus on bikies allowed other criminals to prosper: inquiry VIA: brisbanetimes

BIKER NEWS -- The Newman government's focus on bikie gangs allowed other areas of organised crime to flourish, a commission of i...



BIKER NEWS -- The Newman government's focus on bikie gangs allowed other areas of organised crime to flourish, a commission of inquiry has found.

Commissioner Michael Byrne, QC, handed his 568-page report to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Friday morning in Brisbane.

Mr Byrne said while he was not "pointing the finger at anyone", other non-bikie-related crimes, such as child exploitation, had been neglected.

"The evidence before the commission suggests that the focus upon – and resources solely dedicated to – the threat of outlaw motorcycle gangs by the (Queensland Police Service) has meant that other types of organised crime have not been able to be appropriately investigated," Mr Byrne says in his report.

But the opposition's shadow attorney-general Ian Walker said the LNP's VLAD legislation always targeted more than just bikies.

Mr Byrne said the Crime and Corruption Commission's submission to his inquiry conceded its government-led focus on bikie gangs had affected other areas of investigation.

Because of that, he said, "they had lost vision of other forms of organised crime in the state".

Mr Byrne cited child exploitation material and financial crimes as examples. He said resources were finite, but it was a matter of striking a balance.

Mr Byrne said the Queensland Police Service had allocated in excess of 200 detectives to the anti-bikie Taskforce Maxima, with a "high watermark" of five detectives in the fraud squad.

He said "you could count the number of detectives involved (in Taskforce Argos) on less than two hands". Taskforce Argos dealt exclusively the investigation of child sexual exploitation.

"The hard figures seem to say that one area is being neglected at the expense of another," Mr Byrne said.

"I should say I'm not here to criticise the police; they had their reasons and the strong argument they put forward is that their ultimate focus must be on public safety and they have viewed bikies as a threat to public safety.

"From my own point of view, I would have thought the exploitation of vulnerable children was also a public safety issue."

In the 21-month period between October 1, 2013, and June 30, 2015, outlaw motorcycle gang members accounted for just 0.52 per cent of criminal activity in Queensland, Mr Byrne said.

Ms Palaszczuk said she was "absolutely horrified" about the prevalence of child exploitation in the state and would seek a meeting with Police Commissioner Ian Stewart.

"I'm going to focus on that immediately," she said.

"Obviously, there are not enough resources targeted at this area."

Ms Palaszczuk said the commission of inquiry's report would be considered by the VLAD task force, which was reviewing the former government's controversial anti-bikie legislation.

"We know that organised crime is not just about bikie gangs," she said.

"I understand bikie gangs are the public face of organised crime but if we focus all our energy on bikies, others will flourish."

Mr Byrne said there were 43 recommendations in the report.

"This was not an inquiry looking at particular individuals," he said.

"This was to find out whether the Queensland community and agencies were properly responding to the threat of organised crime."

Mr Walker said while he was yet to read Mr Byrne's report, the LNP made "no apology" for its hard-line approach to criminal gangs.

"As you know, that derived from a circumstance down on the Gold Coast where bikies were attacking the police station," he said.

"You either stand up to that or you let it go ahead."

Mr Walker said the VLAD legislation targeted all gang-related criminal activity and not just outlaw motorcycle gangs.

"In fact, the first conviction under the law was of a person who was involved in drug-running and had nothing to do with bikies," he said.

Mr Walker said police had resources during the Newman era to take on all kinds of crime.

"The allocation of resources from one area of crime to another is a matter for the police force," he said.

"Certainly we took their advice in respect of legislation. If they felt any of the legislation was lacking, either then or now, clearly we would take that advice on board."

Mr Walker said the opposition would take the report's recommendations on board and "take them seriously".

"It's been somewhat of a secret report and that is something of concern to the opposition," he said.

"Mr Byrne indicated at the beginning of the process that he expected to have public hearings, but that didn't eventuate and that's a disappointment for us."

Mr Byrne was appointed to the inquiry in April, at the same time as Racing Queensland, of which he was chairman, was subject of its own inquiry.

This article was first published on October 30, 2015
Get a copy of brisbanetimes.com.au or go to brisbanetimes.com.au for more stories.

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