A law change to ban gang patches in schools, police stations
and Work and Income offices could be too broad and accidently
capture people who are innocently wearing gang colours, MPs
have been told.
A select committee this morning heard submissions on National
MP Todd McClay's bill, which would make it an criminal
offence to wear gang insignia in government-owned premises.
Law Society human rights and privacy spokesman Robert Hesketh
said insignia was too widely defined in the legislation and
would capture clothing that was not intended to be
The bill related not only to gang patches but coloured
clothing associated with gangs.
The society felt the bill should not progress beyond the
select committee stage but, if it did, it needed to be
amended to tighten the definition.
Mr Hesketh noted that the bill clashed with the Bill of
Rights Act because it was inconsistent with the right to
freedom of expression.
"One is reminded of that time-honoured mantra that one may
not agree with what another person expresses, but certainly
the right to have and convey that expression is guaranteed by
our Bill of Rights Act," he said.
Mr McClay, the MP for Rotorua, earlier told the committee
that the bill was not a "silver bullet" but would reduce the
influence of gangs.
"This bill is drafted to reduce intimidation, offer greater
protection to victims and law-abiding citizens, and ... is to
focus on the harm and significant misery that gangs cause
throughout all communities in all parts of New Zealand."
He said the proposed law change was influenced by the
community marches against gangs in Murupara, which took place
after the murder of a youth who was killed because his school
uniform was the colour of a rival gang in the region.
Mr McClay cited a submission by Whitireia Community Law
Centre, which spoke of the stranglehold the Mongrel Mob gang
had on an area of Porirua.
Two of the law centre's clients had been murdered by Mongrel
Mob members, and staff had worked with a 12-year-old girl who
had been pack-raped by a gang.
The centre's submisison said gang patches were a "conduit" in
fuelling fear in the community.
The Police Association made a submission in support of the
bill, saying it was part of suite of changes needed to
- By Isaac Davison of the New Zealand Herald