Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Asset forfeiture: eroding the foundations

The government's press release on the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Bill clearly demonstrates what's at stake:

Under the new legislation organised criminal gangs, particularly those involved in large-scale drug dealing, will not need to be caught for every crime that they commit.

Instead, the government will be able to punish them by seizing their assets without the need for evidence, even if they are acquitted by a court. This attacks the very foundations of our justice system: the presumption of innocence, the bar on double jeopardy, the idea that in order to be punished, you actually have to be proved to have done something specific - and be proved to have done it beyond a reasonable doubt. While irritating to the police and advocates of "law and order", these foundations exist for very good reasons: to protect the innocent and prevent abuses of power. By eroding those standards, it will allow those injustices and abuses to reoccur.

The police and advocates of "law and order" might not care if people are once again banged up for being one of the "usual suspects", and punished on the basis of vague allegations of criminality rather than specific offending - but the rest of us should. Such behaviour is fundamentally unjust, the sort of thing you'd expect in the 70's world of Life on Mars - not in a modern state which supposedly respects human rights.


I seem to recall the tax department used similar methods in the recent past, making the accused prove themselves financially pure, until it was discovered perfectly innocent people where being driven to suicide over the impossibility of proving such things.

The more things change ....

The press release suggests they're intending to use this to financially break anyone who associates with drug dealers, though the bill itself seems to make no such limitation.

It doesn't even seem to have any time limits on having to produce independently verifiable records of all your finances, when they only last seven or eight years if you're lucky!

Hell, would you say you'd done legitimate business with a guy in the past to this "court" if doing so would make you technically an associate of an assumed drug dealer, and thus vulnerable to having your assets stripped too?

Posted by tussock : 3/21/2007 04:34:00 PM

So Gordon Copeland, despite being opposed enough to the "arbitrary deprivation of property" was happy to vote for a bill that specifically provides for it?

Oh I forgot - criminals and Maori are excluded from the ideology of "Property Rights For White People".

Posted by Rich : 3/21/2007 04:59:00 PM

I have sent a message to Mark Burton.

When will this hit a select committee?

Posted by stephen : 3/21/2007 09:48:00 PM