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All your everything belong to me

13 May 2021

One of the basic tenets of our society is (or has been) the right to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

In fact, this basic right is defined in section 25(c) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights (BOR).

The normal process when you are accused of a crime is that you are charged, you appear before a court and then you are either found not-guilty or guilty of those charges/accusations.

This sounds like a system that protects the rights of the innocent whilst ensuring that those who commit crimes are appropriately censured and penalised for their actions.

Sadly however, things are changing and it would appear that the protections provided by the NZ Bill of Rights are about to become worthless.

I'm talking about proposed changes to the NZ Proceeds of Crime Act.

This act already has some very draconian provisions that allow the state (through the Police) to seize ownership and possession of any property that they believe has been acquired as the result of criminal activy or the proceeds of.

The courts are not involved in the seizure, thus there is no independent oversight involved.

Of course those affected can apply to the courts to challenge the seizure but in the meantime, they are deprived of ownership and the rights that are associated with that ownership. With the court system being woefully overloaded, this could mean a substantive delay between filing a case against the seizure and actually having the courts consider that case so as to make a ruling.

The Bill of Rights (section 25(b)) does provide protection against unreasonable delay in the case of criminal trials but I'm pretty sure such an action becomes a civil one, where no such protections are in place.

Proposed changes to the Criminal Proceeds Act will allow police to seize any property or assets from anyone, without the need to prove a thing and without even the need to lay criminal charges. Yes, PC plod could come along and say "we are taking your car and your house" and your only hope of getting them back is to prove that they were purchased from your legitimate income.

Only those with something to hide have anything to fear... right?

Obviously if you are making a fortune from "under the counter" untaxed or illicit transactions then this is a great tool for ensuring that you do not benefit from such illegal activities... right?

Well yes, in many/most cases this would be true. However, when you hand unfettered power to *any* person, group or agency, there is huge potential for abuse, misuse and corruption. The police themselves are certainly not above reproach in this regard. There are countless occasions where police have been proven in the courts to have acted "unlawfully" when administering their powers and privileges. To hand such an astounding power to police without checks and balances is totally unacceptable.

Remember that under this proposed change, there will be no need for any criminal charges to be laid against those whose assets are confiscated. There is no burden of proof on the part of police. There is no recourse for the victim except to prove their innocence of the allegation that these are the proceeds of crime. How can that not be a violation of part 25(c) of the BOR because in this situation there is clearly only the presumption of guilt.

Not only is this proposed ammendment to the Criminal Proceeds Act seemingly a violation of the Bill of Rights but it must surely must be seen, as drafted, to be a totally fascist position on the arm of the state.

Certainly the goal of this ammendment is laudable but the implementation and its effects on the rights of all NZers is totally unacceptable.

Ask Arthur Allan Thomas, Kim Dotcom or those who were subjected to the Urewera raids how much the police can be trusted not to abuse their power and privilege and I think you'll see why these proposed changes should be rejected.

It really does seem that we're headed down a horrible path to totalitarianism and fascism -- inch by inch.

Or am I over-reacting?

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