Laws backs gang bill

By John Maslin

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A private member's bill banning gang patches from government premises has received majority support in Parliament and now looks almost certain to be enshrined in law.

The Prohibition of Gang Insignia in Government Premises Bill passed its second reading on Wednesday.

Promoted by Rotorua MP Todd McLay, the bill would effectively trump the proposed Wanganui District Council (Prohibition of Gang Insignia) bylaw of 2012, which was drafted to replace a council bylaw that had been ruled invalid by the High Court in 2009.

The original bylaw had been vigorously backed by former mayor Michael Laws, and yesterday he applauded the advances the McClay bill had made.

Mr Laws said the second reading also introduced a significant change, which would ban patches from every school across the country.

He said as the bill got through its second reading "by a handsome margin" it was obvious it was going to become law.

Mr McClay had approached him when he was drafting his private member's bill and that meant the bill was based almost entirely on legislation the Wanganui District Council had formulated.

"This is very, very satisfying," Mr Laws said.

The district council decided last year to park up its planned legislation until the outcome of the McClay bill was resolved originally made it an offence to wear a gang patch in all government departments and council offices but after the recommendations of the select committee it will now also include all schools, kindergartens and police stations.

"This bill is important to protect people from intimidation in their communities. It is about putting the interests of victims of crime and law-abiding citizens first," the Rotorua MP said.

"Young people don't need to be exposed to gangs and their patches in the school playground. When our children are at school they have a right to feel safe and free from intimidation," he said.

Mr Laws said it was "rare for backbench MPs to have a national impact, but this piece of legislation certainly will. This law actually works - it removes the self-marketing and intimidation of these antisocial wanna-bes and allows police an effective tool in controlling their activities.

"The view of Wanganui police was that it led to a remarkable 15 per cent decrease in gang-related crime, and it also has a chilling effect on gang prospects if they can't parade their colours.

"As an aside, it is dramatic how different gang members and gang prospects act if they're not wearing their insignia/colours."

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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