The Wanganui District Council (Prohibition of Gang Insignia) Act 2009, which prohibits the display of gang insignia in a public place, so clearly infringes of freedom of expression and association that it’s almost as though it was made up as an exam question for law students in a Bill of Rights class.
The Act defines ‘gang insignia’ to include any so-called ‘representation’ commonly displayed to denote membership of or support for a gang. By my reckoning, that could render an outfit of red, black and white clothing ‘gang insignia’ of the Mongrel Mob, or yellow, black and red ‘gang insignia’ of the Tribesmen.
The Council is also empowered, at any time it sees fits, to classify any other organisation, association or group as a ‘gang’, but there’s no hint as to when or why an organisation might be designated a ‘gang’ – the Council has apparently boundless discretion. So (and, given Wanganui’s mayor, this worries me) the Wanganui Council seems to have carte blanche for limiting the movements and activities of any group it takes a disliking to.
I think we should be concerned that two significant democratic freedoms expression and association are now contingent (at least in Wanganui) upon the Wanganui Council’s whims. Especially since there’s no real evidence this law will even achieve its goal of reducing gang crime.
Oh, and this isn’t just a Wanganui thing. Looks as if Timaru likes the idea too.