Thursday, April 22, 2010
Legislation targets criminal groups
The Manitoba government is making a list, and it'll be checking it twice to identify which gangs are causing the most trouble in Manitoba.
Attorney General Andrew Swan introduced legislation Wednesday that will create a process to put "key criminal organizations" on a list so that Crown prosecutors don't have to repeatedly prove to a judge a gang like the Hells Angels is a criminal organization.
While touted as the first law of its kind in Canada, the proposed amendments to the Manitoba Evidence Act can only be used in court cases that fall under provincial jurisdiction like the Safer Neighbourhoods and Communities Act. It allows the province to seize drug houses and other property.
"This can only help us on provincial laws," Swan said. "For example, if we are moving on a criminal property forfeiture proceedings, it will make it far easier for us to move ahead without having to prove it over and over again.
"If it's a well-known motorcycle gang it's frustrating that our investigators have to go back to square one and convince a judge that they are indeed a criminal organization."
What won't change is the legal requirement to prove an accused is a member of a criminal organization.
"The key thing is that this does not take away anybody's liberty," Swan said. "It doesn't take away any rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."
Swan said he won't decide which group will be the first to make the list. He said that will be up to his officials and an independent panel. The targeted group will also be contacted, probably through their lawyer, to argue against being labelled a criminal organization.
Cabinet will have the final word.