The government of B.C. is poised to seize three Hells Angels club-houses, based on its allegation that “each clubhouse was an “instrument of unlawful activity” because “in future, they were likely to be used to engage in unlawful activity that may result in the acquisition of an interest in property and/or cause serious bodily harm to persons.” https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/hells-angels-lose-bid-to-derail-clubhouse-forfeiture/wcm/29cf4ccc-d2c9-439f-b69c-d4860cfd6896 To see more clearly what the Director of Civil Forfeiture is doing here, let’s look at a theoretical case of forfeiture that we can all get behind: A scammer defrauds people out of monies selling fake securities. He gets caught, charged and convicted. An order for seizure of the assets he purchased with the proceeds of his crimes is made out, with the lawful purpose of redress for his victims.
None of those critical elements appear to me to have been made out in the process to seize those club-houses. The B.C. government is relying on the testimony of cops who claim the Angels are a criminal organization, but the government has repeatedly failed to get the Angels to be declared a criminal organization in the courts. It would appear that it has also not been established that the club-houses were purchased with the proceeds of crime. So, the seizure has not been a civil result of specific criminal convictions, unlike that of our theoretical scammer.
The purpose of the club-house seizures is not redress for any Club victims, either. The purpose is control, based on allegations that have not themselves been established in any court. Controlling citizens’ behavior, based on unproven allegations, is not a proper purpose in any democratic society.
The standard of proof that the Director of Civil Forfeiture is using, to deprive the Angels of their own property and of their constitutional right to peacefully convene, is improper, and also shows the weakness of the Director’s case: “likely to be used” shows the Director is using the civil standard of proof: on the balance of probabilities. The civil standard is not properly used to take away people’s constitutional rights; it is properly used to restore those rights, for redress of wrongs. And “may result in” highlights the weakness of the Director’s case: ‘may’ is not even acceptable in the civil standard.
It does not help society to jack the club-houses: where are they supposed to go? Would you like them to be riding their bikes past your house at midnight? Dumping the Angels among the rest of us will increase the likelihood of confrontations between them and the rest of us. If the purpose is the furtherance of public security, it seems unlikely to be the result.
There is this also: it is a really bad idea to further alienate people who are already living on the edges of society by harassing them and treating them unfairly. That just teaches them that they can expect nothing positive from the rest of society, and it encourages them to ignore or to transgress social codes and laws.