When consorting and anti association laws were proposed in various states as a kneejerk reaction to biker violence, they were opposed by the LDP, civil libertarians, and others as excessive, broad targeted, and likely to lead to abuse of process. These laws are not targeted at criminal acts, rather at associating with undesirables, which has been turned into a criminal offense.
Normally under criminal law in civilized countries and free societies, due process has to be observed in convicting anyone of a crime. This involves providing irrefutable proof that a crime had been committed by the accused, or at least had been planned and preparations were underway.
The aim of 'consorting' laws has been to remove the burden of proof from prosecutions of even plausible evidence of criminal activity. Associating with others is evidence enough to secure conviction. It represents the lazy man’s guide to law enforcement.
It is no surprise that the first conviction has nothing to do with bikers or organized crime, but targets a young guy with a history of minor offences behind him:
A 21-YEAR-OLD man has been jailed for a year after "consorting" with his housemate, in the first conviction under controversial new laws in NSW. Charlie Maxwell Foster pleaded guilty to the new offence of "habitually consort with convicted offenders" at Inverell Local Court last week, and will now serve nine months of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.Is there no irony in the statement above, “fell into disuse after criticism that police abused it to target individuals?” A young man is spending at least nine months in the slammer, not for a criminal act, nor for intent to carry one out, but because he associated with someone. Targeting criminal activity is a legitimate activity of law enforcement authorities; targeting groups over the possibility that they may contain some criminal elements is not.
The offence of consorting, first used to break up criminal gangs in the 1920s, fell into disuse after criticism that police abused it to target individuals. Reintroduced in April, explicitly to target bikie and organised crime gangs, it makes it a crime to communicate with criminals, either in person, by telephone or email.
Speaking in court, Mr Foster's solicitor Jon Watts said, "on two occasions ... the person he was in company with, they were actually living in the same house and they were going shopping, grocery shopping at the time.” There was no suggestion Mr Foster was consorting in order to plan any illegal activity, the court was told. …
… Speaking outside the court, Justin Dowd, president of the NSW Law Society, criticised the new consorting laws. "It's one that not only civil libertarians but anyone with a concern for the rule of law would be worried about," he said.
The 7:30 Report has more here, but is the reporter ‘consorting’?
The United Motorcycle Council details some of the problems with the legislation here.