Bandidos member loses fight with police over gun licence and 'gang' label

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A bikie gang member has lost his appeal against the revocation of his gun licence, in what police hope could be a landmark case.

In at least two previous cases,  involvement with a gang has been held by the courts to be irrelevant when determining a person's fitness to hold a firearms licence.

Wade Victor Innes, from Wairarapa, had held a firearms licence since 1997. But police revoked it last July, claiming he had twice failed to update his address and had been seen wearing a Bandidos motorcycle club vest.

Parliament has listed the Bandidos as a criminal-affiliated gang, and police have described them as a worldwide organised crime syndicate that set up in New Zealand in 2012.

However, Innes argued at Masterton District Court that he was a family man who simply belonged to weekend bike club.

Judge Arthur Tompkins' said in his judgment: "The applicant ... says that whatever the organisation's international reputation might be, in New Zealand it is simply a law-abiding club for motorcycle enthusiasts." 

Police Association president Greg O'Connor​ responded to that claim on Monday by saying: "I feel a Tui billboard coming on."

Innes could not be reached for comment. His lawyer, Ian Hard, said his client was a family man and plumber who liked bikes and joined a group he did not know had criminal links overseas: "He sees it as a weekend sort of bike club."

He said his client had no criminal convictions bar a traffic offence, and argued there was no evidence that any criminal activities had pervaded the Wairarapa chapter of the club.

 

"It is rather unfortunate that people who are joining a group quite naively can prevent them taking part in other activities they like."

When Innes renewed his licence in 2007, he said he possessed .22, .44 and .308 calibre guns.

The judge noted that Innes told police he had since disposed of the guns, but refused to say where, or with whom.

Police presented evidence of his gang associates' violence convictions, along with photographs that showed him drinking with several patched members at a Wellington pub, and stopping with them at a Levin petrol station.

They also said that, last January, Innes and 11 Bandidos members were stopped at a Kapiti petrol station.

Acting organised crime national manager Detective Inspector Stuart Mills said it was "very rare" for a patched gang member to hold a firearm licence. They were typically declined due to convictions or associations.

But the judge's ruling referenced the previous cases in which gang affiliations were deemed to be irrelevant. He said one of those cases appeared to be contradictory, in that it noted the risk that unlicensed gang members could get hold of a licensed comrade's guns.

The cases were also at odds with the Police Arms Manual, which identified criminal gang membership as grounds for rejecting a licence application, he said.

He concluded that Bandidos members were generally "not the types of people who should be 'entitled to lawful possession of firearms'." 

Mills said police were considering what impact the decision might have for future proceedings, and whether it set a precedent.

O'Connor said: "I think every New Zealander would agree with the decision, and would find it astonishing that gang members had even been able to apply to be firearms licence owners anyway."

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TALIA SHADWELL
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stuff.co.nz




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