A Coast pensioner has been refused bail after being charged with drug trafficking.
A Coast pensioner has been refused bail after being charged with drug trafficking. Rockhampton Morning Bulletin

Former judge: It's too soon to review the VLAD laws

AS Queensland's controversial "bikie" laws are set to be reviewed by a commission of inquiry later this year, our four-part special report looks into the impacts of the legislation since its introduction in 2013.

This is Part 3: The Legal Impacts

A RETIRED Supreme Court Judge has warned Labor's review of the anti-bikie legislation could be premature.

After its February election, the Labor government committed to reviewing the controversial Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment (VLAD) laws, introduced in October 2013 under former premier Campbell Newman.

The review has been brought forward from 2016 and will be finalised later this year.

Retired judge David Ashton-Lewis said the early review of the law was an indication it was being done to satisfy party politics rather than to create lasting community standards.

Courts typically wait seven to 10 years before reviewing any legislation to allow time to build up a body of common law, cases and evidence.

"The law is slow for a good reason," Mr Ashton-Lewis said.

"Public opinion is always changing, so if you were to legislate by this, things would be drastically different every five years.

"If you're the one making these laws, you're in a position that should go above hysteria. You need to plumb the depths of all positions and ensure that you're passing good laws."


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VLAD mandatory sentencing won't last: Lawyer

But Parliamentary Speaker Peter Wellington said he believed a review of the laws was necessary as soon as possible.

"Under the VLAD laws, no longer are people innocent until proven guilty and no longer is anyone equal before the law in Queensland," Mr Wellington said.

While Mr Ashton-Lewis was opposed to an early review of the VLAD laws, he did agree the sentences prescribed by them were "draconian".

"The sentencing is far too harsh," he said.

"You should never remove discretion from a judge."

Mr Ashton-Lewis - a senior Australian legal consultant and retired Supreme Court justice in developing Pacific nations - also said he did not believe mandatory sentencing sat well with much of the judiciary, and that this could cause them to undermine the VLAD laws.

"If you choose to charge under VLAD, then your hands are tied," he said.

"A judge may stretch things further than they should because they don't want to charge them under a law with mandatory sentencing."

ENDNOTE: Bikie Laws - The Fallout is a collaboration between Australian Regional Media and students of Bond University.


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