Wednesday March 15, 2017
With the coming into effect a week ago the new consorting provisions of the Serious Organised Crime legislation there were already signs of Police aggressively starting to implement the new Consorting laws.
It is an indictable offence for a person to consort with what is described as ‘recognised offenders’ after having been given an official warning by police with respect to each of those individuals.
A ‘recognised offender’ is a person aged 18 years or over who has a recorded conviction for an indictable offence punishable by a maximum of at least five years jail.
A person who ‘consorts’ with another person if they associate with the person in a way that involves seeking or accepting the other person’s company. For an act of consorting to be captured there needs to be an intentional seeking out of a personal or social relationship with another person.
There is a reverse onus defence whereby certain acts of consorting will be disregarded if they are reasonable such as those that are necessary for participation in civic life, for example, consorting with close family members or for the purpose of legitimate employment or generally obtaining education or health services.
The consorting offence replaces the anti-association offence of the Newman-Bleijie VLAD legislation era.
The consorting offence makes it a criminal offence for a person to associate with two other people who have previous convictions.
The official warning in relation to consorting can be given orally or in writing and must be given in relation to each convicted offender.
Warnings can be given pre-emptively, for example, the official warning can be issued by police without any consorting ever having occurred, but the person must then consort with those people on two occasions, post-receipt of the warning. Warnings can also be given retrospectively, for example, non-contemporaneously based on video footage.
There is no right of review for the issue of an official warning.
It is, therefore, important that anyone the subject of an official warning particularly in the first number of months of the new law being implemented by Queensland Police urgently obtain legal advice.