Anti-VLAD protesters at January 2014 rally in Roma St
People arrested or harassed under the draconian Queensland VLAD laws as part of the government’s so-called bikie war say they are suffering mentally and financially, and continue to be harassed by police. They even include the widow of a declared bikie club affiliate.
All of those arrested or harassed should be able to claim compensation. Alex Douglas, the former head of the Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Commission and now state parliamentary leader of the Palmer United Party believes the government will lose the High Court challenge to the laws and the compensation bill could soar to $100 million.
Melinda Morrison lost her husband, David, to cancer in 2008, yet she claims her family has been harassed by police only since the bikie war began when the VLAD laws were introduced. She says David was affiliated with, but not a member of, the Black Uhlans.
“Everything was normal until these laws came in and I started handing out leaflets for the anti-VLAD Facebook page,” she says. “One day when I was getting the kids from school, the police came out front and started writing notes. My 14-year-old son asked them what they were doing and they took off. Since then, they’ve been driving by and watching us, jotting down notes. My daughter is now on anti-depressants because she fears she will answer the door to the police. My son has been pulled up, questioned by police and even strip searched on the side of the road.”
Melinda says she has rung police stations near her Algester home and they have no record of the incident.
“They might have David’s name down in their records, but they haven’t updated their files. It is quite scary to think that they could be chasing up dead men and the wives and children are the ones who are suffering.”
Melinda was present at the recent anti-VLAD meeting held in Brisbane where other harassed and arrested VLAD victims told their story of ongoing harassment. Some, such as librarian Sally Keuther, who was charged under the VLAD laws for the “crime” of having a beer in the Dayboro hotel with her fiancee and his brother, did not attend for fear of being arrested again. However, her statement was read out by a friend.
“I am a woman, so obviously I cannot be a member of a club,” says the statement from the first woman charged under the bikie war laws. “I don’t even have a bike licence! I am a mother of three good kids and have no criminal record.”
Sally spent six nights in jail, missing her oldest son’s 17th birthday, and faces six months in solitary confinement if found guilty.
“Since then, the year has been like a rollercoaster ride for me, my fiancee and his brother. Some up days, heaps of down days. I couldn’t go back to work for three months as I couldn’t leave the house. I have spent a lot of time and money with my shrink. He has probably been the one that has got me to a stage where I am back at work and can go grocery shopping and do kids stuff now. I still spend a lot of time at home. This experience has changed me and taken a lot of confidence out of me.”
The experience has not only wrecked Sally’s family life and caused immense mental anguish, but also come at a financial cost.
“I am hidden out the back at work, have been moved to another location and can’t do any overtime so therefore I am already down $8000 in five months. Some days I wonder if this will ever end.”
Another who spoke at the anti-VLAD meeting was Mike Smith (Smithy) who was arrested for having a beer with his sons and two friends – the infamous “Yandina 5”. The Rebels MC member read out statements from sons Scott and Steven who couldn’t attend because of 11pm curfews under bail conditions.
Scott says that since his release from solitary confinement the police have visited his house on four occasions at 3am for curfew checks and have been driving past his house daily or parking outside.
“We are all struggling with different emotions,” says Scott who is visiting a doctor and psychologist to help with his mood swings. “The pain and terror it has caused my partner, my kids and my mum through this is wrong.”
Steven spent three months in solitary with cold showers, no “buy up”, no phone calls and a one-hour weekly visit behind glass “if I was lucky”. He was finally released on bail after an expensive Supreme Court hearing but is still on a strict curfew.
“Everyone in solitary ends up on some form of medication just to sleep,” he says.
Smithy says the police harassment has been ongoing for his 20 years as a Rebels member, even though he has no criminal record. His house has been raided four times, the last time by the SERT squad who smashed five doors, four windows and threw two flash grenades that started two fires in his house.
Misfits club member Jamie Evans told the meeting that he has not been pulled up by police since his 21st interception became a You Tube sensation with more than half a million views. However, he says he has been followed by police when out riding, has been pulled over in his ute on several occasions and the police have driven past his house as often as two or three times in an hour.
“They know who I am,” says Jamie who has no criminal record. “I’m branded simply because I embarrassed the government.”