Law against gang colours unconstitutional: judge
SASKATOON - A law banning the wearing of gang colours in Saskatchewan bars violates a person's right to freedom of expression, a judge ruled Thursday.
The case involved Jesse Bitz, 36, a member of the Hells Angels.
Bitz was charged under Saskatchewan's Safer Communities and Neighborhoods Act in 2007 for wearing his gang colours in a Saskatoon bar.
Provincial court Judge Albert Lavoie found the law unconstitutional and the charge was dropped. In his ruling, Lavoie said the law is vague, too broad in some areas and not specific enough in others.
Mark Brayford, Bitz's lawyer, praised the judge's decision.
"We don't see this legislation as useful to society," Brayford said.
"It is important to protect people from crime, but it is much more important to be free. This does nothing to protect us from crime."
Crown prosecutor Melodi Kujawa called the ruling a surprise and said the province will review it to determine whether to appeal.
"What has been lost is an opportunity for bar owners to be able to have recourse to keeping certain kind of things out of their bar," she said. "I think that is unfortunate."
The maximum penalty for a first-time conviction under the law was a $10,000 fine and/or one year in jail.
The charges against five other Hells Angels members have been adjourned pending the Crown's decision on launching an appeal.