Pubdate: Thu, 28 May 2009
Source: Nanaimo News Bulletin (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009, BC Newspaper Group
Author: William Perry


To the Editor,

British Columbia's Civil Forfeiture Office maintains that the 
legislation does not, by any means, allow police or the government to 
arbitrarily seize lawful property, and that proceeds from successful 
civil forfeiture proceedings are used to compensate victims and for 
crime prevention and remediation activities across the province.

In my opinion, the creation of this 'reverse-onus' requires 
defendants to prove they did not gain the asset from unlawful activity.

Examinations for discovery are conducted and cases are decided on the 
civil standard of proof - the balance of probabilities - rather than 
the higher criminal standard, beyond a reasonable doubt.

Proponents of seizure suggest that it is a necessary tool to prevent 
drug trafficking or other crimes. However, in jurisdictions that have 
introduced civil forfeiture legislation, such as Italy, South Africa, 
Ireland, the United Kingdom, Fiji, the provinces of Ontario, Alberta, 
Manitoba, Saskatchewan, individual states within Australia and 
Antigua, statistics indicate that asset forfeiture has failed to 
prevent methamphetamine drug crime.

In those jurisdictions, there are hundreds of documented cases of 
innocent citizens wrongfully deprived of their homes, businesses and 
livelihoods. For example, 80 per cent of properties forfeited in the 
U.S. were seized from owners who were never even charged with a crime.

This double-edged sword has created opportunity for agencies to 
abandon investigations, and creates a conflict of interest between 
effective crime control, the courts and creative fiscal management 
that will persist so long as law enforcement agencies remain 
dependent on civil asset forfeiture.

William Perry

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