Friday, December 18, 2009

Unconstitutional to ban gang colours: Saskatchewan judge.

The ban strikes me as a bit ludicrous in any event. Perhaps the swastika should be banned as well or the hammer and sickle. What next? It will be interesting to see if the province bothers to appeal the decision.

Banning gang colours unconstitutional, Saskatchewan judge rules

By Jason Warick, Saskatoon StarPhoenix

A Saskatoon judge threw out charges against a member of the Hells Angels who had been charged under a new provincial law for wearing Hells Angels clothing in a Saskatoon ,
SASKATOON — Wearing gang colours in public is a matter of free expression — protected by Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms — a judge ruled Thursday.

Judge Albert Lavoie's decision, issued Thursday afternoon in Saskatoon provincial court, struck down a provincial law that prohibited gang members from wearing gang patches or colours in bars or other public places.

"The benefits of the legislation, in its present form, are minimal while the deleterious effects on freedom of expression are so far reaching as to outweigh the benefits," Judge Albert Lavoie wrote in his 33-page decision.

Lavoie ordered that charges be dropped against Hells Angel Jesse Leigh Bitz, charged for wearing his colours in a Saskatoon bar in August 2007. The judge also declared Section 60.1 of The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act to be unconstitutional.

Crown prosecutor Melodi Kujawa said the decision came as a surprise. Since the law has been declared unconstitutional, Saskatchewan prosecutors likely won't recommend charges in any similar cases for now, she said.

"What we're trying to do is keep gang colours out of bars. I think that's pretty easily understood, very straightforward. I don't think the legislation encompasses anything beyond that," Kujawa said.

The Crown has 30 days to decide whether to appeal.

Bitz declined to comment following the ruling. His lawyer, Mark Brayford said the law does nothing to make communities safer and argued the Saskatoon chapter of the infamous biker club is not, in fact, a criminal association.

A hearing for similar charges against several other people has been adjourned until Jan. 11.

The Crown argued during Bitz's trial that the wearing of gang colours is a form of public intimidation — not expression. Leonard Isnor, a gang expert who testified during the trial, called it the "power of the patch."

The law was created to help police deal with gangs, drug trafficking, prostitution and child exploitation, but Brayford argued its wording is so broad it could persecute striking workers

No comments: