Professor Arthur Veno of Monash University is the author of The Brotherhood: Inside Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs, and The Mammoth Book of Bikers, due out in September. Here he answers questions on Hells Angel Christopher Hudson, who, in 20 minutes of madness on Monday morning, is alleged to have gunned down a solicitor, an exotic dancer, and a Dutch backpacker in downtown Melbourne.
Did Monday’s incident have anything to do with Hudson’s membership of the Hells Angels?
The underlying tensions that drove a guy to do this were much deeper in a bikie club sense. If my sources are correct, this particular situation also had elements of a domestic dispute. There was a relationship between the woman who was shot by Hudson, and that doesn’t help matters. One of the major functions of the club is to smooth out those domestic issues. The Presidents and Officials of the clubs spend endless hours counselling members on this kind of stuff because members personal matters can bring big-time heat on the clubs. And that’s what we’ve seen here.
What sort of presence do bikie gangs have in the Australian nightclub scene?
It’s not just bikie clubs involved in the nightclub scene, it’s the whole underworld. In as much as some bikies are heavily involved in the underworld, they are involved in the nightclub scene.
In Australia, biker clubs are painfully aware of the Racketeering, Influence, and Corrupt Organisations Act (RICO) in the US and C90 in Canada. These laws allowed special powers to law enforcement agencies to eliminate organised crime entities in these countries. If biker clubs in Australia are subject to such crimanl laws, they would be prosecuted with special powers afforded by these acts. Make no mistake about it, these are draconian laws.
Since 1969, when RICO was introduced, nightclubs have rarely been bikie gang businesses. There are some exceptions where nightclub security is“owned” biker gangs, but that is about their extent of involvement with the business scene of the nightclubs.
It has been reported that Hudson defected from the Finks Motorcycle Club to the Hells Angels. What sort of tensions does that give rise to in biker culture?
In at least half the cases I know, the member who defects becomes a problem for their new club through wild-card actions like we’ve seen here. You can drop out of clubs with relative immunity, even if you have bad standing, but you cannot then join another club because that is seen as the ultimate sign of disloyalty.
So, there’s a special set of circumstances with a wild card like that. There’s a certain kudos for clubs when they attract a member from another club. It infers that their club is better than the other club, but it creates problems. The ones who defect are often the members who don’t fit into the milieu of their original club.
So this particular situation is less about two worlds colliding in a nightclub and more about bikie culture?
Any club member who defects from their current club after years of servitude to prove his loyalty to the brotherhood had better make sure their affairs are in order. It’s a basic rule. You will cop a hit for doing that. I understand that Hudson was shot in Queensland last year for reasons related to that.
Policing the activities of these clubs is very difficult. International experience shows that legislation is not going to work. It’s really a matter of getting these clubs to police the criminal elements and stabilise a few of their more unstable members themselves. What I’m getting at is that he was already a dead man walking.
What’s the prognosis for Christopher Hudson?
The Angels will have cut him loose which means the Finks have a free run on him. If he goes to the police, he’s going to be a dog (informant), more than likely. If he wants to have any quality of life at all, other than being murdered in prison, he’s looking at protective custody for 25-30 years. Those are his options at this point. If he turned up at a club, my guess is that any decent official would turn him in on the advice of the executive. He’s an absolute liability. If he goes to jail and doesn’t turn state’s evidence, he might stand a chance, but there are a lot of Finks and Hells Angels in jail. Like I said, he’s a dead man walking.