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3 strikes against Methamphetamine, Criminal Gangs

Three strikes against Methamphetamine and Criminal Gangs


(Joint statement by Hon Annette King, Minister of Justice & Police and Hon Phil Goff, Minister of Corrections. Includes backgrounder.)


A further planned attack on three fronts on methamphetamine and criminal gangs trafficking in drugs will have a decisive affect on drug crime, Labour Ministers Phil Goff and Annette King said today at a joint press conference with South Australian Premier Mike Rann.

"Methamphetamine does enormous damage to our society and the lives of many individuals within it. Gangs play a central role in manufacturing and trafficking of this drug," the Ministers said.

"Police figures show that 75 per cent of those caught making or trafficking these drugs are gang members or gang associates. Strong action to defeat the gangs and stop their illegal activities is therefore a vital component in the war against drugs.

"Two key components of the attack on drug crime are already before Parliament. Legislation before the House will strengthen powers to confiscate the proceeds of crime and boost the penalties and sentences for being involved in organised crime and organised criminal gangs," the Ministers said.

"The Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Bill will help strip gang members, including the gang bosses who do not get their hands dirty, of assets derived from crime.

Under civil forfeiture procedures, courts can decide to confiscate assets on the civil standard of balance of probabilities rather than the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt in determining that a person has acquired assets from criminal activities.

"The onus of proof at that point will be on the defendant to demonstrate why all of their assets should not be confiscated because they are not derived from crime," the Ministers said.

"The Organised Crime (Penalties and Sentencing) Amendment Bill doubles the maximum sentence for being a member of an organised crime group from five to 10 years and makes being a member of an organised crime group an aggravating factor during sentencing.

Mr Goff and Ms King said that the third part of the strategy will focus on disruption of the activities of gangs involved in criminal activities by considering using the sort of non-association and no go zones for identified gang members recently passed in South Australia.

"At the press conference today Premier Mike Rann outlined the objective behind passing this legislation, and the hoped for impact of that legislation in terms of helping stop gang crime.

"Under the South Australian legislation, which has just come into effect, courts can act on police advice to declare gangs to be criminal organisations. This allows courts to issue restraining orders on members of organised crime gangs to prevent them from associating with other members, carrying weapons and visiting named locations, in order to disrupt organised criminal activities.

"The New Zealand Government is closely following the impact of the Australian legislation. This gives New Zealand the opportunity to analyse how effective the legislation proves and to address any problems which may arise from its implementation. If it proves successful in curbing gang activity, the same sort of legislative measures will be implemented here," the Ministers said.

--

BACKGROUND


Fighting gangs and the P trade – what this government has done and what it's doing now.

1. What this Government has done:


• Established Clan Lab Response teams in Auckland and Wellington –
resulting in 190 Clan lab busts since 2000.
• Reclassified methamphetamine as a Class A controlled drug in 2003.
• Increased the maximum prison sentence for manufacturing or supplying P from 14 years to life, in 2003.
• Amended the Misuse of Drugs Act to set presumption of supply to five grams, in 2005.
• Illicit drug seizures avoided an estimated $3.67 billion of drug-related harm (Drug Harm Index) between 2000 and 2006.

Examples of recent major Police-led drug operations:

• Breaking a $6 million ecstasy drug ring, September 2008.
• Large quantities of drugs and guns seized, scores of people in custody as part of Operation Viper, September 2008.
• Major disruption to P supply in the North Island following 12-month Police, Customs and Corrections operation against a P smuggling syndicate.
• 50 arrests and guns seized as Killer Beez and Tribesmen gangs targeted in successful Police Operation Leo in South Auckland.

These operations follow major New Zealand operations against drug smuggling international crime gangs in 2003, 2006 and 2007.

2. Government anti-gang initiatives in place or currently before the House

As well as the Organised Crime (Penalties and Sentencing) Bill and Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Bill before Parliament, Labour has five other key projects underway to fight organised crime. They are:

• The Organised Crime Strategy.
• The development of organised crime fighting agency OFCANZ.
• The Search and Surveillance Powers Bill.
• The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Bill.
• The Evidence Act Review.

• Organised Crime Strategy

The first Organised Crime Strategy (OCS) has been in effect since March 2008. The OCS is designed to ensure there is a strong process for identifying and addressing organised crime risks as they emerge. It develops a co-ordinated approach for agencies across government to reduce organised crime.

The current OCS has four strategic goals: community, prevention, intelligence and enforcement. These goals are intended to provide the full spectrum of responses to organised crime, from addressing underlying social factors through to deterring and detecting criminal activity.

Officials are now working on the 2009-2012 Organised Crime Strategy. This will build on the current OCS and address any identified gaps, and complement the work of the Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand (OFCANZ).

• OFCANZ Development

OFCANZ will combat serious organised crime as opposed to street level offending. Its work will primarily contribute to the intelligence and enforcement goals of the OCS.

OFCANZ, with support from many other agencies, has developed a prioritisation model and has sought endorsement of focus areas for activity in the coming year. A Financial Crime Group will be established within OFCANZ to support existing financial crime response in Districts.

In August 2008 the Police and Customs Service jointly published "Organised Crime in New Zealand: A multi-agency assessment". This centralises our best current knowledge and understanding of the domestic organised crime environment. OFCANZ has used this assessment to identify its Focus Areas.
OFCANZ proposes four Focus Areas for the remainder of the 2008/09 year:

Serious and complex fraud
Outlaw motorcycle gangs
Asian organised crime groups
Ethnic gangs

These Focus Areas represent a small but significant part of the entities, activities and commodities detailed in the "Organised Crime in New Zealand: a multi-agency assessment" document. OFCANZ has also identified the following areas of interest that warrant continuing scrutiny and controls:

Youth/street gangs
Cannabis
Violence
Identity Crime
Money Laundering
Environmental Crime

OFCANZ will formally review the Focus Areas each year. These reviews will incorporate the organised crime work being done across government. OFCANZ will also link in with the broader OCS work programme to help identify relevant prevention initiatives. It will prioritise the Focus Areas but also address other areas of organised crime recognised as problematic and of community concern.

• Search and Surveillance Powers Bill

As part of the Government's package of initiatives against serious and organised crime, the Search and Surveillance Powers Bill consolidates and reforms the existing law on search and surveillance in New Zealand. The Bill provides a coherent, consistent and certain approach in balancing the complementary values of law enforcement and human rights. Search and surveillance powers are essential to police and other enforcement agencies.

Such powers provide authority to investigate criminal activity and to secure evidential material that is often crucial to the trial and conviction of offenders.
The Bill allows for more explicit powers to search computers and seize electronic data, for production and monitoring orders and examination orders, and provide a much wider range of situations in which surveillance warrants can be issued.

Over about five years, the Law Commission has carried out a comprehensive review of the current law and its problems, considering a wide range of New Zealand and overseas legislation and related common law. The Commission's work resulted in some 300 recommendations to rationalise and reform the current law. The Government has also supplemented the Commission's work by adding a compulsory examination power to assist with the investigation of serious and organised crime.

The Bill was introduced on 10 September 2008.

• Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Bill

Proposals are currently being developed that will enhance New Zealand's compliance with the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) Recommendations around the prevention of money-laundering and terrorist financing. The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Bill will be introduced in April 2009. Amongst other things, this Bill aims to further reduce the opportunity for organised criminal groups and others to launder the proceeds of criminal activity by imposing greater supervision of the financial sector and casinos. Increased supervision of these institutions will enhance Police capacity to carry out investigations of organised criminal activity. An exposure draft was released recently, and it currently out for consultation.

• Evidence Act Review

Section 108 of the Evidence Act 2006 provides protection to undercover police officers from disclosing their identity when acting as witnesses in trials for certain offences (serious offences, drug offences and participation in an organised criminal group).

Many offences that are part of the day to day activity of gangs are not covered by the protection in section 108. Work has begun to review the range of offences section 108 can apply to, and whether other offences are appropriate be included. Discussions have included members of the undercover programme within Police.


The South Australian Legislation (Serious and Organised Crime (Control) Act 2008)

How does it work?

In 2008, South Australia passed the Serious and Organised Crime (Control) Act (the Act). The Act gives the Attorney General the powers to declare that a particular gang is a criminal organisation.

The Act prevents a Court challenge to the Attorney General's decision to declare a gang a criminal organisation.

Once a gang is declared a "criminal organisation", the Courts can issue (on application from the Commissioner of Police) a "control order". These orders are issued to an individual member of a declared criminal organisation and prohibit a person from associating with certain people, being in certain places, attending certain events and possessing certain articles.

In addition, the Act empowers the Police to issue "public safety orders" to members of a criminal organisation, which restricts them from entering certain places or events.

The Act creates new "association" offences that prohibit any person from knowingly associating with a member of a declared criminal group or individuals subject to a control order more than 6 times per year. The penalty for this offence is up to 5 years imprisonment.

The Act also makes it an offence for those with a relevant criminal conviction from associating with other individuals with similar criminal convictions more than 6 times per year. This new offence carries a penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment.

There is no requirement that the association, in the above offences, be for the purpose of a criminal offence, rather it is the association itself that is illegal.

There are exceptions for association with close family, through lawful occupation, in training, in a rehabilitation facility, in custody or other prescribed associations.


ENDS

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