Canada's top court has upheld an Ontario law that allows police to seize money and property as proceeds of crime even when the owner hasn't been convicted or even charged with an offence.
The Supreme Court ruled last week that almost $30,000 in cash, plus a light ballast and exhaust fan of the type used in marijuana grow-ops, do not have to be returned to Robin Chatterjee of Thornhill.
The cash and items were seized by York Region police during a 2003 traffic stop but officers found no drugs and lacked enough evidence to charge Chatterjee with a crime.
Chatterjee's lawyer, James Diamond, said the top court found the Civil Remedies Act, passed in 2002, correctly allows such seizures when there is a "balance of probabilities" an offence has been committed.
That's a lower standard than the "beyond a reasonable doubt" demanded by criminal courts.
"The effect is to brand someone who has never even been charged with criminal activity," Diamond said in an interview yesterday.
He had argued that the act violates a citizen's constitutionally guaranteed presumption of innocence.
But, in their 7-0 decision, Justices Beverley McLachlin, Ian Binnie, Louis LeBel, Marie Deschamps, Morris Fish, Rosalie Abella and Marshall Rothstein ruled that the seizure provisions are constitutional.
"The evident purposes of the CRA are to make crime in general unprofitable and to deter its present and would-be perpetrators," the decision states. "These are valid provincial objectives."
Court documents state that York officers stopped Chatterjee's car in March 2003 for not having a front licence plate. He was arrested for breach of probation.
Police searched his vehicle and found the cash and gear. Officers said they also smelled marijuana but no drugs were found or any charges laid, according to the 29-page ruling.
The province was granted a seizure order in 2006 by Ontario's Superior Court of Justice, a decision appealed by Chatterjee to Canada's top court.
Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre
Increasingly, politically correct judges have been appointed to the point that the entire judiciary is riddled with the cancer of politically correct decisions absent the core values and foundation of the most basic principles of law. The most basic principle in law is to weigh the prejudice against the probabitve value. The supreme court dismisses the majority of appeals "without reason" which is the ultimate symptom of absolute arrogance and contempt for society. www.OttawaMensCentre.com