This article proceeds in three main parts. First, it provides an account of a moral panic that unfolded during a short period in the Australian state of New South Wales over warring motorbike or ‘bikie’ gangs. Second, it sketches a recent history of laws in New South Wales that have expanded police powers, including ‘anti-bikie’ gang laws. The article shows how policing and crime control has become politicised since 9/11 and, accordingly, the extension of police powers has entailed the blurring of the functions of police and security services. This, in turn, raises serious concerns about civil liberties and the rule of law. Third, the article interprets the events surrounding the ‘bikie gang wars’ using classic and more recent moral panic theory as well as ideas around the ‘new penology’. The article concludes by considering the utility of applying the concept of moral panic to the bikie case.
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