He works under a high security clearance in the mining industry. Up until recently, she worked for a bank. The VLAD (Vicious Lawless Antisocial Disestablishment) laws have transformed the lives of a quiet Ipswich couple, whose only connection with motorcycles is a World War Two BMW sidecar bike barely capable of breaking the urban speed limit.
“The police turn up four at a time in their flak jackets with guns and their hands on their tasers. They are in full uniform ready for a fight, and my new neighbours are out there watching all of this unfold.” Matt Baker buries his face in his hands.
While the Queensland Police Service maintains that the general public are not being adversely impacted by VLAD and “are unlikely to have adverse contact with law enforcement”, for this Ipswich couple, it’s a very different story.
“Good friends have decided obviously my husband has committed some sort of criminal act I don’t know about otherwise the police wouldn’t be coming around.” Matt’s wife Suzann said. She’s not just lost life-long friendships—but quit her bank job after fearing she would get the sack, and have her five year employment record tarnished. “I work for a bank and they were starting to investigate people who had these links. ‘I’m sorry I had to tell them because my job was on the line’ one of my colleagues said.”
Four times since the VLAD laws came into force in October last year, groups of police have visited their Ipswich property, photographed their home and questioned them about their vehicles, travel details, finances and associations. The Queensland Police Service however has not confirmed whether the couple were visited by Taskforce Maxima, a squad assembled in conjunction with the VLAD laws to, “disrupt, dismantle and eliminate criminal motorcycle gangs”. The family have their own suspicions. The man is a former member of group who socially supported the Black Uhlans, but handed in all of his paraphernalia over six years ago.
While a police spokesperson claimed VLAD does not target ‘every day Queenslanders’ only those who are “participants of criminal organisations”, Adam Magill, a defence lawyer at Bell Mill Solicitors, said Taskforce Maxima lacked real intelligence on it’s targets and was instead relying on intimidation.
“I know people who haven’t stepped foot in a club house for five years, and they are getting constantly searched and approached because of one photograph or because they own a motorbike,” said Mr Magill.
That ‘one photograph’, in the case of the Ipswich couple, may just turn out to be a snap of the former serviceman taken during a roadside stop and search seven years ago, and it is the only information police have which connecting him to bikies. Ironically, a drug squad detective in Melbourne now owns the bike in the photo.
Mr Michael Cope, the Vice President for the Queensland Council of Civil Liberties, said Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart has effectively given police permission to hassle innocent people.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve heard a complaint about the police from people who simply do not know why they are being harassed” by “storm troopers of the Newman government”, Independent MP Peter Wellington told the Brisbane Times. “The government says this intimidation is just part and parcel or normal duties.”
Police told the woman their enquiries were not harassment, and if she did not like being visited she should go to her local member or report it to the local police station.
“The police force doing this sort of thing is extremely disturbing, regardless of whether it’s legally justified or not.” said Mr Cope.