Patch ban 'will spark violence'

By Anne-Marie Emerson

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The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club has vowed to fight any gang-patch bylaw the Wanganui District Council passes.

The Angels' lawyer, Steven Rollo, speaking at the council's submissions hearing for its draft gang insignia bylaw, said if the bylaw was passed it would be "challenged and challenged and challenged".

"It will be challenged for many years to come. When all legal avenues have been explored and the bylaw is left standing, other avenues will be used to challenge it," Mr Rollo said.

He told councillors the bylaw breached the Bill of Rights and was disproportionate to the size of Wanganui's gang problem. "It is a sledgehammer attempting to smash a very small nut."

Mr Rollo also argued that the bylaw had little community support and that violence against innocent people would increase if it was passed.

"The incidents of people being attacked for wearing the 'wrong' colour clothing will increase, because the importance of the colour of clothing will become greater to the gangs."

Mr Rollo noted the small number of public submissions to the draft bylaw.

"There hasn't been a flood of submissions - there's been six, including three from schools who were invited to make a submission. In terms of submissions, there's seems to be little support for this bylaw."

Mr Rollo was one of two submitters who spoke at yesterday's hearing.

Whanganui police officersattended, as well as Hells Angels minus their patches.

Deliberations on the submissions were to be included in yesterday's hearings. However, the council decided to adjourn deliberations until later because councillors wanted more information on aspects of the submissions.

Mayor Annette Main said the meeting would be attached to a regular council meeting.

It is the council's second attempt to pass a gang insignia bylaw. The first bylaw, which was introduced in September 2009, was declared invalid in the High Court after a judicial review was sought by a Hells Angels member.

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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