Gang patches closer to being banned

By Anita Moran, Genevieve Helliwell

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Gang patches are one step closer to being banned after MPs voted in favour of the bill in Parliament.

New Zealand First MP Brendan Horan voted in support of Rotorua MP Todd McClay's proposed bill to ban gang patches.

The bill passed its first reading in Parliament yesterday. It proposed to ban gang insignia in all government buildings.

Mr Horan said gang patches were "disgusting'' and he would support anything that helped create safer communities.

"I think it's a good move because with these gangs to get a patch, you have to commit an offence. It could be burglary, it could be rape or something more serious so I support anything that will stop these felons terrorising

communities, including Tauranga.''

"I know of situations where people are too scared to wear red or blue in certain towns, and of kids getting beaten up because they're wearing red or blue. It's nonsense," he said.

"The only reason someone wears a patch is to inflict terror ... so I support the removal of gang insignia.''

Mr McClay's members bill was initially debated two weeks ago. When it was picked up in Parliament yesterday, it had support from most parties.

Labour, the Greens and Mana all opposed the bill but it passed its first reading with a majority of 69 to 52.

If it became law, offenders could face a fine of up to $2000. Police would also have the right to confiscate and destroy patches and insignia.

The bill introduces restrictions around gang insignia being displayed at places such as government departments

and council facilities, including Work and Income and Housing NZ offices, as well as the grounds and buildings of public schools and hospitals.

Mr McClay said: "Gangs are commonly identified by their insignia, which is often worn as a badge of pride. What it really demonstrates is a high probability that the wearer has committed crimes to earn the right to wear gang colours or insignia."

He said government departments and Crown entities provided a valued service to members of the public and staff and visitors deserved to feel safe in the work place or service.

However, the bill has sparked a public debate between Mr McClay and Mana MP Hone Harawira.

Mr Harawira has labelled the bill racist and said if it was made law he would consider wearing a gang patch to Parliament.

The bill will now go to the law and order select committee.  

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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