Pubdate: Thu, 05 May 2011 Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC) Copyright: 2011 Times Colonist Contact: http://www2.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/letters.html Website: http://www.timescolonist.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/481 FORFEITURE OFFICE TO BYPASS COURTS IN SMALLER CASES B.C.'s Civil Forfeiture office will be able to directly seize small amounts of property and goods associated with criminal activity without getting approval from a court, under new legislation introduced Wednesday. The Civil Forfeiture Amendment Act would tweak a 2006 law that lets government seize and sell items such as cars, boats and houses if they were bought with crime money or used for unlawful purposes. Under the current law, the government must argue its case in court. But the amendment proposes to allow "administrative forfeiture" where the government could directly seize items worth less than $75,000 if no one disputes its action within 60 days of being notified. Solicitor General Shirley Bond said about one-third of the province's civil forfeiture cases conclude without anyone objecting. Bypassing the courts will save legal costs and make it financially worthwhile to seize smaller items, she said. "I want to make sure our courts are being taken up with appropriate things like gangs and criminals that need to be there," said Bond. Bond said she has no concerns about placing increased seizure powers into the hands of the government's civil forfeiture office, because it is police departments who recommend the items allegedly connected to criminal activity based on their own investigations. The government will send out letters and post advertisements in newspapers to try to alert anyone who might have a stake in the property or goods during the 60-day notification period, said Bond. B.C. has seized and sold almost $17 million in civil forfeiture items since 2006. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.