Gangs squad police have failed in a legal bid to ban five Illawarra men with links to the Lone Wolf bikie gang from associating with each other after a violent brawl at the Novotel North Beach last year.
Childhood friends Elias Elchaar, 44, Mathew Gilmore, 29, Burah Esen, 22, Tony Jovanovski, 39 and Orce Niceski, 44, each pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a charge of affray stemming from the December 23 melee, which took place inside the Pepe’s on the Beach bar.
CCTV footage played in Wollongong court showed an initial verbal disagreement between the group and two men of Islander appearance quickly escalated into a physical stoush as the rival groups threw chairs and glass bottles at each other.
Elchaar, Gilmore, Esen, Jovanovski and Niceski were arrested in February following a police investigation.
They originally intended to fight the charges, however agreed to plead guilty following negotiations by defence lawyers.
All five men were convicted in court on Tuesday and given sentences ranging from a $500 fine to 300 hours of community service.
Police have previously alleged in court that Elchaar is a member of the South Coast chapter of the outlaw motorcycle gang, while the remainder are considered “gang associates”.
Following their conviction, police prosecutor Scott Bowie sought to have Magistrate Mark Douglass ban the five men from having contact with each other under non-association laws.
However, lawyers for the group argued they had known each other since infancy and there was no evidence of the fight being part of an organised plan stemming from any allegiances.
In dismissing the application, Magistrate Mark Douglass said he was not satisfied of the need to put an order in place, noting the incident was “spontaneous”.
“There’s simply no basis to conclude that the offending behaviour arose out of any improper association,” he said.
“It was unplanned and spontaneous – but for the provocation which was initiated by the other group, I’m satisfied this affray would not have occurred.”
Outside court, defence lawyer Danny Eid said his clients regretted their actions on the night.
“Unfortunately they overstepped the mark by a little but they pleaded guilty to the matter that was before the court,” he said.