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Riot With A Mask? You Could Spend 15 Years In A Victorian Prison

The government is toughening its stance after a series of violent incidents.

13/03/2017 1:11 PM AEDT | Updated 13/03/2017 1:13 PM AEDT
Mathew Lynn/Fairfax Media
Protesters from rival anti-racism (Moreland Says NO To Racism) and anti-Islam (Stop The Far Left!) rallies are seen in Coburg on May 28, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. The rallies are the latest in a series of protests held in Melbourne over the past year.

Violent rioters who wear masks in Victoria could face jail terms of up to 15 years, the Victorian government says.

Attorney General Martin Pakula told the ABC he plans to introduce legislation to make a new offence of violent disorder into Parliament next week.

"Too often we see at these events people turning up with masks and face coverings to try and hide their identity or to shield themselves from the effects of capsicum spray," he said.

"This legislation will make it clear that if you commit these violent offences with face coverings on, you'll get even longer periods in prison."

Committing an offence of violent disorder will attract a 10-year jail penalty and up to 15 years if the offence is committed while wearing a face covering, he said.

Fairfax Media
Riot police are seen during a Black Lives Matter rally to protest in the wake of a spate of police shootings of black Americans on July 17, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.

The laws will also give police specific powers to order people to remove a face mask.

The announcement comes after police arrested more than 65 people over three days during the Moomba festival seizing a taser, knuckle dusters, knives and scissors.

"I would estimate, having been on the streets on Saturday night, probably no more than about 100 people out of a very, very large crowd have an intent to cause harm and misbehave in the city," Commander Russell Barrett told Nine's Today program on Monday.

Shadow attorney general John Pesutto told The Herald Sun the failure to act sooner meant anyone guilty of violence at the Moomba festival "will get off with a slap on the wrist".

"Daniel Andrews should have addressed this problem, knowing that last year's Moomba violence should have been the wake-up call he so clearly needs,'' Mr Pesutto said.

Victoria's police minister Lisa Neville called for face masks at protests and riots to be banned in mid-2016, after duelling clashes between between anti-racism and anti-Islamic activists in Coburg, in Melbourne's North.

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