Article by Sunny Dhillon, The Globe and Mail
A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled the RCMP violated the Charter rights of a husband and wife whose home was linked to a marijuana grow operation, a dispute that has since come to involve the province’s Civil Forfeiture Office.
Criminal charges against the couple were stayed four years ago, but the file is still being pursued by the Civil Forfeiture Office – a government agency that has been criticized for its aggressive attempts to seize homes, vehicles and cash connected to criminal offences, even from people who have not been convicted or charged.
David and Jennifer Johnson were arrested in June, 2009, after a raid at their home in Surrey, B.C. Mr. Johnson was in a vehicle with his three-year-old son when he was taken into custody. Criminal charges against the husband and wife were dropped in 2012, after a judge ruled the case had taken too long to get to trial and the alleged grow op was “relatively small” at 267 plants.
But five days after criminal charges were stayed, the RCMP forwarded the file to the Civil Forfeiture Office. The office then began proceedings to seize $130,000 removed from the home during the police search.
The Globe and Mail has reported extensively on the Civil Forfeiture Office, which was introduced as a way to fight organized crime, but has come to have a far broader reach. Critics have questioned some of the files it takes on, calling it a cash cow.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Miriam Maisonville in a recent ruling found police violated the couple’s Charter rights.