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Law in Context

Abstract from Volume 34 No 2 (2016) Contemporary Issues in Criminal Law

The ‘Bikie Effect’ and Other Forms of Demonisation: The Origins and Effects of Hyper-Criminalisation

Luke McNamara is a Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of New South Wales, and a Visiting Professor in the Legal Intersections Research Centre at the University of Wollongong. His current research examines the patterns, drivers, modalities and effects of criminalisation as a public policy and regulatory mechanism.

Julia Quilter is an Associate Professor at the School of Law and a member of the Legal Intersections Research Centre at the University of Wollongong. Her current research addresses patterns of criminalisation, including criminal law and policing responses to alcohol and drug-related violence and anti-social behaviour.

The last decade has seen a significant expansion in the net cast by Australian criminal laws. In the name of crime prevention and risk management, legislatures around Australia have introduced various forms of ‘extreme’ criminalisation which push the criminal law beyond its traditional boundaries. This article presents four recent case studies of ‘hyper-criminalisation’ to show that law-makers have effectively deployed tropes of demonisation and danger – ‘bikies’ are the archetypal 21st century example – to justify expansion of the parameters of criminal law and the severity of its sanctions. We consider the implications of this type of law-making, given that, frequently, the resulting laws are not limited in their operation to the bikies or other ‘demons’ who were instrumental in their rhetorical justification.

(2016) 34(2) Law in Context p5

   
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