24 Apr 2024

'We're going to be banning gang patches' - Police Minister adamant

8:21 am on 24 April 2024
National MP Mark Mitchell

Police Minister Mark Mitchell. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Despite extensive criticism the Police Minister is adamant about pushing ahead with plans to ban gang patches.

The Gang Legislation Amendment Bill faced heavy criticism at select committee on Tuesday with many submitters pointing out it would be better to tackle the drivers of crime and gang membership.

The bill would ban gang insignia in public places and give police greater powers to stop gang members congregating.

Police Minister Mark Mitchell told Morning Report gangs believed they were above the law and the Government wanted to send them a clear message that they were not.

"We want to put as much pressure on the gangs as we can."

Among criticisms of the legislation were deciphering what was a gang insignia, colour, or symbol.

But Mitchell wasn't deterred. "I don't think it's going to be difficult," he said.

"Fill your boots, if you want to wear a black t-shirt or a red t-shirt you go for it... but if they put swastikas, and gang insignia and Mongrel Mob and Black Power and Head Hunters or whatever other gang you want, then it's gone."

Mitchell said he would see through the select committee process, but said the Government was committed to the ban.

"We're going to be banning gang patches in our country."

Create distrust and entrench inequity

Julia Spelman, from the Māori Law Society, said bill would entrench the distrust between gangs and police, making it harder for people to leave a gang.

"We know from the long history in this country, that that discretion is never exercised by police without bias, that Māori are always worse off when police are exercising discretion, that will be the case here as well."

Defence Lawyers Association co-founder Elizabeth Hall said it would make things worse.

"This legislation will not reduced crime, it will entrench those who are caught up in systemic deprivation which underpin the modern phenomena of crimes.

"It will damage New Zealand families and will create a significant level of distrust between the state, the New Zealand police, and the community."

The Government should have the capacity to admit it was wrong with this approach, Hall said.

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