Victoria’s Police Deputy Commissioner has warned neo-Nazis they’re “on notice” as the state’s ban on the Nazi salute comes into effect.

Neil Paterson fronted the media on Saturday afternoon, addressing accusations of double standards in enforcing the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.

It came a day after the ban on the Nazi salute gained royal assent, meaning from Saturday anyone caught throwing the offensive gesture in public can be fined up to $23,000 fine, and imprisoned for up to 12 months.

Deputy Commissioner Paterson said his officers “regularly” send briefs of evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), but added that racial vilification laws are hard to prosecute.

“We’ve got many examples of us taking action and referring those matters to the Director of Public Prosecutions for a decision on whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute,” Deputy Commissioner Paterson said.

But he noted the DPP has set the bar “high” when it comes to taking on successful prosecution.

For example, a National Socialist Network demonstration was held on the steps of Flinders Street Station hours after a rally held by Melbourne’s Jewish community in support of Israel, following conflict with Hamas.

About 25 National Socialist members threw Nazi salutes and brandished an anti-Semitic sign.

Deputy Commissioner Paterson said briefs of evidence had been lodged over that action, but it was knocked back by the DPP for “insufficient evidence to prosecute.”

“In terms of our Jewish community here in Victoria, we know that they have concerns at the present time due to the conflict in the Middle East,” Deputy Commissioner Paterson said.

“We’ve been making sure that we get out and about in the Jewish community and provide a level of confidence to them around their safety … at schools, at synagogues and other Jewish facilities.

“I’ve personally met with a number of senior Jewish community members to give them assurance about the police activities in the state of Victoria.”

In regards to the Nazi salute ban, Deputy Commissioner Paterson said the new laws aren’t retroactive.

“If any member of public, including the National Socialist Network attend any of those rallies and undertake a Nazi salute then police will be pursuing those individuals to ensure that we enforce the new law,” Deputy Commissioner Paterson said.

“I’m putting people on notice that if that was to occur, as of today … police will be taking action against those individuals.”

Neo-Nazi groups have been spotted at recent rallies protesting transgenderism and in support of the Voice to Parliament ‘No’ campaign.

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