License article

Gunless bikers set deadline for police chief

MOTORCYCLE club members whose weapons were seized by a police taskforce have threatened legal action against the Chief Commissioner unless he decides by noon today whether to give them back.

Members of the Wangaratta-based Tramps Motorcycle Club have instructed lawyer John Suta to take action in the Supreme Court in order to force Ken Lay to make a decision, more than two months after the Echo taskforce took guns from nine club members.

The registered weapons were confiscated in August as part of a crackdown on what police described as ''outlaw motorcycle gangs'', although the Tramps and other clubs dispute that characterisation.

Mr Suta wrote to the Chief Commissioner in September and again last month asking him to reconsider his decision to declare the Tramps members were not fit to hold a firearms licence, but has had no response.

Police confiscated a registered .22 calibre rifle from the house of club president Ronny Harding, which Mr Harding said was used to shoot sheep and vermin on his farm.

Other members of the club lost shotguns and high-powered rifles, which they say are used to hunt feral deer.


''Enough's enough. They need to either take the licences off them, or give them back. Why the procrastination, I don't know,'' Mr Suta said.

''You'd think that with the resources at the disposal of the state of Victoria, they could make a decision with some sort of alacrity.

''We haven't got unlimited resources, but the state of Victoria has.''

Mr Suta said the situation of one Tramps member, Michael Oxenham, was particularly serious, as he needed a firearms licence to carry out his work as a mobile butcher.

Members of at least three other motorcycle clubs have also sought to have the decision to revoke their licences reversed.

Any decision to give weapons back to club members would raise questions about the evidence used to revoke the licences in the first place.

If the Chief Commissioner does not reverse his decision to cancel the firearms licences, the next step would be an appeal to the independent Firearms Appeals Committee, and then the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

In a speech to supporters of the club last weekend, Mr Harding savaged the government's planned ''anti-association'' laws, which would criminalise groups such as bikie clubs.