VLAD laws

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These laws are a demonstration of the worse consequences of what happens when people are treated as groups under the law, and not as individuals
—Incoming Australian human rights commissioner Tim Wilson[1]

The VLAD (Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act 2013) is a set of authoritarian laws passed on 16 October 2013 by the Queensland parliament, claimed to help deal with biker gangs.[2] Designed to "severely punish members of criminal organisations that commit serious offences",[3] the act imposes mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years and strict parole conditions[4] on those that commit any of the act's listed offences for the purpose of participating in the affairs of the organisation and mandatory 6-month sentences for associates meeting in public.[1] They have raised serious civil liberties concerns amongst people who know what they're talking about… and amongst morons.

Legitimate criticism[edit]

While intended to be "tough",[2] the act has several glaringly obvious issues:

  • Scope — While intended to be used against gangs, the act uses an incredibly wide definition of "association", as a group of three of more people, whether legal or illegal, and a similarly wide definition of participants, affecting everyone regardless of if they have a criminal record or not, to ensure gangs are caught within the act's provisions. This essentially catches even semi-formal groups in the state — from companies to knitting circles,[5] requiring defendants to prove that the group does not exist for criminal purposes or be subject to the act's enhanced penalties and having significant potential for abuse.[6] Furthermore, office bearers, subject to another 10-years mandatory sentencing, are not just those who hold official positions (president, treasurer, etc.) but anyone who asserts through their conduct to have a position of authority in the group.[7]
  • Reversed Burden of Proof — Taking cues from drug laws (guilty until proven otherwise), the onus is on the accused to prove that any group that they are part of does not exist for criminal purposes rather than requiring the state to prove it does, a breach of expected legal principles. Combined with the act's breadth, there is a high chance of unfair sentencing.[6].
  • Arbitrary detention — The act almost forces the courts to deny bail before trial to anyone charged under the act. Beyond the general issues of imprisoning people without conviction, the reversed burden of proof requires that the accused prove that they shouldn't be in jail rather the state prove they should.

Not legitimate criticism[edit]

With the above, one would think the VLAD Act had enough issues… but ever-vigilant conspiracy theorists and the uninformed have gone out of their way to "discover" more. These range from members of the Queensland parliament are just like Hitler[8] to charging the state's Attorney General with treason "for his actively working to Undermine Democracy and the Rule of Law in Australia"[9] to proclamations by neo-Nazis that it is a tool of white oppression.[10] There also appear to be a significant number of people who seem terrified of the law, missing the "did or omitted to do the act that constitutes the declared offence for the purposes of, or in the course of participating in the affairs of, the relevant association" section (not covered by the reversed burden of proof) believing that they will be jailed for 15 years or at least dragged to court if they ever commit a declared offence because they are members of a mothers group.[11]

Declared Offences[edit]

The VLAD Act can be applied to anyone charged with any "Declared Offence", a list of 69 different crimes from five different crime statutes: Corrective Services Act 2006, Criminal Code (Queensland), Criminal Proceeds Confiscation Act 2002, Drugs Misuse Act 1986 and the Weapons Act 1990.

Examples include:[12]

  • Murder or manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Child pornography
  • Incest
  • Rioting
  • Procuring engagement in prostitution, knowingly participating in provision of prostitution, carrying on business of providing unlawful prostitution or having an interest in premises used for prostitution
  • Bomb hoaxes
  • Producing, trafficking, supplying, or possessing dangerous drugs
  • Receiving stolen property
  • Dangerous operation of a vehicle
  • Setting mantraps