And what happens to all the money and property seized?
Well, of the $13.4 million seized in Ontario since 2003, only $1.2 million has been turned over as compensation to "victims of unlawful activity", whatever that phrase means.
Almost half of it, $5.7 million has been handed back to law enforcement agencies in the form of grants.
Five times as much money is given back to the very law enforcement agencies that enforce civil forfeiture as is given to "victims of unlawful activity". Does that sound like there is room for misuse of the law? That there is the possibility of personal interest at stake when the decisions are made about whether or not to steal someone's property without a trial?
Currently there is a large and growing scandal developing in Britain over this very issue. A story on AllVoices.com revealed the following, under a photograph of a protester holding a sign that says "Stop Police Corruption":
"Today James Brokenshire Home Office Minister announced that half the money confiscated through the Proceeds of Crime Act went back to the very organisations responsible for prosecuting Defendants."
"The Home Office received a total of £150 million of criminal assets in 2009-10 after receivers' fees had been deducted. Under the current Asset Recovery Incentivisation Scheme half of all assets recovered are returned to law enforcement agencies involved in the asset recovery process, including the police, Crown Prosecution Service and HM Courts Service. In 2009-10, £75 million was returned to front line agencies."
When the agencies responsible for enforcing the law directly benefit from the money and property they seize, it can easily lead to corrupt enforcement of the law.
A case in point from the AllVoices.com article:
Recently a lady lost her life saving of £11,000 because she unwittingly purchased products for her business for £250 that were stolen by a supplier. The supplier of the stolen goods, being on benefits, (Welfare) was fined £1.
How does it possibly serve justice to take the life savings of someone who unknowingly purchased stolen goods, but fine the person who committed the crime the equivalent of $2?
In the case of the Montague civil forfeiture case, it's interesting to note that McKeachie's annual salary is listed at $176,561 according to the Ontario Government's Public Sector Salary Disclosure page.
That's more than the Montagues' family home and 160-acre property (their entire life savings) are worth.
If you're as horrified by the Ontario government's action against the Montague family as I am, please write the the Honourable Chris Bentley, Attorney General of Ontario, and express your outrage at the actions of his office, specifically that of James McKeachie. You can contact Mr. Bentley here:
Ministry of the Attorney General
720 Bay Street, 11th Floor
Telephone toll free: 1-800-518-7901
Telephone Toronto: 416-326-2220
If you can spare it, the Montague family can really use your financial support! The government is attempting to steal everything they own. Please help them to save their family home from the Ontario government's confiscation attempt!