Attorney General Seizes Chatham "Drug House"



    Civil Forfeiture Law Used To Take Over Residential Apartment Building

    CHATHAM, ON, Aug. 16 /CNW/ - Ontario's Attorney General has been granted
a court order to preserve and secure a Chatham apartment building that police
call a "drug house," Attorney General Michael Bryant announced today.
    "We have a court order to temporarily take control of one of the most
infamous addresses known to police in Chatham," said Bryant. "A police
presence at the property will discourage any unlawful activity. As Attorney
General, I will be asking the court to forfeit this property to the Crown as
an instrument of unlawful activity under the Civil Remedies Act."
    On August 13, 2007, the property at 51 Taylor Avenue was frozen under the
provincial Civil Remedies Act and the Crown was given temporary control of the
property pending the outcome of forfeiture proceedings. Counsel for the
Attorney General satisfied the court that there were reasonable grounds to
believe the property was being used as an instrument of unlawful activity for
the possession, sale and use of illegal drugs, including crack cocaine. All
allegations must still be proven in court.
    "We are grateful that the Attorney General has used the Civil Remedies
Act to take possession of this property and begin proceedings seeking its
forfeiture," said Chatham-Kent Police Chief Carl Herder. "Over the past five
years, police have answered more than 300 calls at 51 Taylor Avenue and
executed 21 search warrants on three apartments in the building, which
resulted in 49 arrests and 119 charges."
    The Civil Remedies Act authorizes the Attorney General to ask civil
courts to freeze, take possession of and order the forfeiture of the proceeds
and instruments of unlawful activity to the Crown. If government lawyers can
prove that the property in question is a proceed or an instrument of unlawful
activity, the court can issue an order forfeiting the property to the Crown.
    Civil forfeiture focuses solely on the connection between property and
unlawful activity. It is not dependant on any criminal charges or convictions.
The standard of proof required for civil forfeiture is the same as it is in
all civil actions - a balance of probabilities.
    This is the first step in the civil process that will ask the court to
order the forfeiture of the property to the Crown. If successful, the property
will be sold and the funds deposited into a special purpose account. Direct
victims of any unlawful activity associated with the property would then be
able to submit a claim for compensation against the forfeited property.

    
    Since November 2003, the Attorney General has used the Civil Remedies Act
    to:

    -   Shut down a notorious Hamilton crack house and transfer ownership to
        the city for redevelopment
    -   Freeze a second crack house in Hamilton
    -   Crush two street racing cars
    -   Gain forfeitures on 13 properties used for marijuana grow operations
        and freeze 52
    -   Freeze a Hell's Angels club house in Oshawa
    -   Obtain forfeitures of almost $1 million in illicit cash
    -   Disburse approximately $1 million in compensation to victims of
        unlawful activity
    -   Award more than $900,000 in grants to law enforcement agencies.

    Disponible en français

                      www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca


    Backgrounder
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

                           CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE
    

    The Civil Remedies Act enables the Attorney General to ask the court for
a civil order forfeiting the proceeds or instruments of unlawful activity to
the Crown.
    A proceed is property or money acquired as a result of unlawful activity.
An instrument is property that is likely to be used to engage in unlawful
activity in the future. The law permits a civil court, at the request of the
Attorney General, to freeze, take possession of and order the forfeiture to
the Crown of property that is determined to be a proceed or an instrument of
unlawful activity. Property includes all types of assets, such as real estate,
cars and cash. Unlawful activity is not limited to activities covered by the
Criminal Code; it could include contraventions of other federal and provincial
laws.
    Under the Civil Remedies Act, the court can grant an interim order to
freeze property pending the outcome of the forfeiture proceeding. If
government lawyers can prove that the property in question is a proceed or an
instrument of unlawful activity, the court can issue orders forfeiting the
property to the Crown. The act then enables victims of the unlawful activity
that leads to forfeiture to submit a claim for compensation against the
forfeited property.
    The process for civil forfeiture under the Civil Remedies Act begins when
a designated institution, such as a law enforcement agency or government
ministry, submits a case to the reviewing authority, an independent Crown
counsel in the Ministry of the Attorney General. That counsel decides whether
the statutory criteria in the Civil Remedies Act have been met. Once that is
confirmed, the case information is forwarded to the ministry's Civil Remedies
for Illicit Activities (CRIA) Office, which is responsible for enforcing the
act.
    Civil forfeiture focuses solely on the connection between property and
unlawful activity. It is not dependant on any criminal charges or convictions.
The standard of proof required for civil forfeiture is the same as it is in
all civil actions - a balance of probabilities.
    Ontario's CRIA Office is recognized nationally and internationally for
its precedent-setting work. Since November 2003, the province has obtained
forfeitures totalling $3.6 million. The province currently has $11.5 million
in property frozen under the act, pending completion of civil forfeiture
proceedings.

    Property at 51 Taylor Avenue, Chatham

    This 12-unit apartment building is in a residential neighbourhood of
Chatham. According to Chatham-Kent Police Service, 51 Taylor Avenue is a well
known "drug house." Over the past five years alone there have been more than
300 police calls to the property. Twenty-one search warrants have been
executed primarily at three of the apartments, resulting in 49 arrests and 119
charges.
    The court has granted the Crown a preservation order, which prevents any
sale or encumbrance of the building and allows the Crown to inspect and secure
the property to discourage any future unlawful activity.
    The Attorney General intends to seek the extension of the preservation
order on the property and then bring proceedings to ask the court to forfeit
the property to the Crown.

    Contact:
    Brendan Crawley
    Ministry of the Attorney General
    Communications Branch
    (416) 326-2210

    
    Disponible en français

                      www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca
    







For further information:

For further information: Greg Crone, Ministry of the Attorney General,
Minister's Office, (416) 326-1785; Brendan Crawley, Ministry of the Attorney
General, Communications Branch, (416) 326-2210

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