Friday, 30 May 2008

It's official - WA is a police state

I can't believe that this issue has not attracted more attention. It certainly inspired me to re-visit this blogging thing.

The Issue? Asset seizures. I am sure you've heard of it. I'm even quietly confident that you think it is a great idea. Well, I am writing this to tell you that if you support the concept then you are full of shit.

An article in the local fish wrapper (The Sunday Times) reports that there are a number of criminal cases (approximately a dozen) in which the assets of the alleged criminal(s) have been frozen, pending an application to seize them. The headline case is one in which a young boy died from a cocktail of veterinary drugs supplied to him (and possibly administered) by a local paedophile. The alleged perpetrator committed suicide while in custody awaiting trial.

The article reports that the state government of Western Australia, through its Director of Public Prosecutions, made application to seize the house where the boy died, BEFORE THE ALLEGED PERPETRATOR WAS EVEN TRIED, using laws promulgated to allow the PROCEEDS OF CRIME to be seized.

This is a travesty. There is NO WAY that this house (or any other assets of the suicide) can possibly be considered "proceeds of crime". The government has admitted as much, and tried to fend off what little criticism they have faced by proposing that the house become a "Drop-in centre for youth".

The paper further reports that in one of the other cases, an application has been made to seize the house in which an alleged offender sat while down-loading child pornography. This is before the alleged offender has even been CHARGED.

I have always been uncomfortable with the concept of asset seizures. Worse, in the WA law the onus of proof that an asset was legitimately acquired was placed on the defendant.

Now that the law has been in place for a while it appears that I was right to question the intent of the law. The outcome has been that a CONVICTION has not been necessary before assets are seized. Worse, assets have NOT been returned following a NOT GUILTY finding.

I am personally outraged by this government's behaviour regarding this issue, and disgusted that some faceless bureaucrat has seen fit to make these applications.

I won't be leaving this alone - something has to be done, and apparently no-one else even sees a problem.