The Hells Angels motorcycle club has launched a legal challenge against a B.C. law used by the province to seize three clubhouses allegedly used for criminal activities, arguing the law violates their Charter Rights.
But Rick Ciarniello, the president of the Vancouver chapter of the Hells Angels, said it is not just members of his organization that should be troubled by the legislation.
"Governments everywhere are now routinely using these civil forfeiture laws as a substitute for the criminal process" said Ciarnello in a statement released by the organization.
"Most people seem to just cave when faced with these forfeiture lawsuits. It is just too expensive and stressful to fight back when faced with the resources of the state. We aren’t going to do that and our fight will be for all British Columbians."
Charter Rights violation
Well-known civil liberties lawyer Joseph Arvay, says the club launched the counterclaims specifically to challenge the government seizure of the Hells Angels' clubhouses in East Vancouver, and Kelowna in 2012 and the Nanaimo clubhouse in 2007.
Avery says the powers in the Civil Forfeiture Act, which was enacted in 2006, are beyond the powers of the province and contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“Civil forfeiture laws allow the government to do indirectly what it cannot do directly and that is to prove crimes without affording to those most directly affected all of the basic protections that the criminal law and process properly requires," said a statement released by Avery.
The Civil Forfeiture Act does not have the same burden of proof as a criminal proceeding, but in the 2012 seizure, the Crown alleged the clubhouses in Kelowna and Vancouver's East End were linked to extortion, assaults and even murder
But Avery says police haven't been able to prove that the Hells Angels is a criminal organization and that too often, civil forfeiture is being used as a substitute for judicial process.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.