Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wanganui gang patch bill

The Wanganui District Council has publicly notified its Wanganui District Council (Prohibition of Gang Insignia) Bill [PDF]. The bill will be available for inspection for 15 working days, after which it will be certified and introduced to the House.

The bill itself grants the Wanganui District Council the power to make bylaws banning gang insignia in specified public places, and creates an offence of displaying gang insignia in an area where it is prohibited. Police will be allowed to arrest those wearing gang insignia, and if convicted those arrested will face a $5,000 fine. This is a clear content-based restriction on freedom of speech, and it is difficult to see it surviving a BORA challenge. Certainly a prosecution for disorderly behaviour or intimidation solely on the grounds that someone was wearing a gang patch wouldn't. While the government has an interest in preventing intimidation, the blunt fact is that in a liberal society, people get to wear what they like. And that is something that the citizens of Wanganui will just have to accept.