FYI.

This story is over 5 years old.

Stuff

Meet the Man Recruiting Vigilantes to Fight Crime in an Australian Town

A Irish-born immigrant named Gary Hall wants to import the violent paramilitary tactics of Northern Ireland's Ulster Volunteer Force to the Northern Territory town of Alice Springs.
May 12, 2015, 4:45pm

Gary Hall on a recent trip to Uluru. All images via Facebook.

Gary Hall says he would die for Alice Springs. In fact, he loves it so much he founded Australia's newest paramilitary group, the Alice Springs Volunteer Force (AVF) in July last year. The Irish-born insurance broker, who is in his mid 40s and has been a resident of the central Australian capital since 2008, says the AVF will combat the "unacceptable" crime rate in the town and the inability of the police to do anything about it.

"What happens if a guy steals a few things in town? They put him in jail then give him bail and put him back on the streets," Hall told VICE. "So then he goes to court, and the judge says, 'Well this is your first offense, so we're going to give you three months suspended sentence and a $200 fine.' The guy leaves court laughing his head off."

A recent attack on Hall's SUV

To combat this issue, Hall posted a recruitment notice last week to a closed Alice Springs Facebook community group, inviting those with a military background and "firearms experience" to join. The group has previously nominated those "who break into houses or steal cars" as targets, but a quick read of the replies suggests an overt racial agenda at play. One reply read "A good idea would be to declare open season on them [Aboriginal people]… Naturally with a bag limit, possibly a bounty on matching pairs would be an incentive." While Hall hasn't directly admitted to being motivated by prejudice, it's this kind of sentiment that has locals nervous.

So far the tendency has been to treat the organization as a racist redneck lynch mob or something of a novelty. Hall rejects both characterizations and says the organization is only looking to recruit those who show iron discipline.

Advertisement

"We're not a bunch of redneck Klu Klux Klannies," he says. "This is an organized group, the definition of vigilante. A paramilitary is a military organization. So it helps to have someone who has had military training. Someone with discipline who can follow orders."

According to Hall, the model for the AVF has so far been the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a loyalist paramilitary group that operated in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. There the UVF waged a violent 30-year campaign that ended up with the group listed as a terrorist organization by the governments of Ireland, the UK, and the US.

Hall, either before or after giving a two-finger salute.

While Hall says he has connections with both loyalist and Republican factions from the days when he lived in Ireland and sold insurance to high-ranking members, he refused to go into detail when we asked for his history. A loyalist named Gary Hall was jailed for attempted murder in 1993, only to be released under a general amnesty in 1998. We asked whether this was him but he stated he would "not comment on my past in Northern Ireland."

Despite Ireland's ceasefire, some members of the UVF have dispensed vigilante justice to those they believe to be criminals in that past, and the group reportedly remains involved in violent crime.

Still, the the AVF wants to import some of these methods the outback. "Someone will go to his front door and warn them, 'Don't do this again,'" Hall says. "If they continue doing it, then we may arrange for him to be kneecapped."

While the Northern Territory police have said they are monitoring the AVF's activities, traditionally those on the receiving end of Irish-style street justice are threatened with death or forced exile if they talk. This makes it unclear how the police will respond if the organization starts acting on its threats.

In terms of numbers, Hall says the group started out with less than ten when it was first founded but have added at least five more since, bringing the number of active members to "just under 20." The aim now is have around 100 active members and Gary says going public has only helped with recruitment. "Until crime is reduced to acceptable levels here, and that is until it is accepted by the people of Alice Springs, we will continue," he says. "That's the message."

Follow Royce on Twitter.