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Drug dealers' assets guilty until proven innocent

Drug dealers' assets - guilty until proven innocent

National's Police spokesman is angry that not a single convicted drug dealer has had their assets confiscated this year and wants an urgent overhaul of the Proceeds of Crime Act. "Something is wrong with the law when the police can bust record numbers of clandestine methamphetamine labs, yet not a dollar of drug dealers' money is confiscated," says National's Tony Ryall. In answer to a written question from Mr Ryall (WQ 8868), the Justice Minister has confirmed that "no orders [under the Proceeds of Crime Act] have been recorded for offences in 2003".

"The information shows that the Crown confiscated more money from drug dealers in 1999 than for the total time since," says Mr Ryall, the former Justice Minister. "If the authorities are going to crack the insidious P trade, they have to target the manufacture and distribution of the drug. P is controlled by gangs, but unless drug dealing gangs are destroyed by confiscating their lifeblood - their money and assets - the battle will be lost. "National has warned the Government to act on this since the 1999 Election. We had been working on reviewing the law, but Labour has done nothing but deliver empty promises since it came into government. "The problem with the law is that police have to prove that drug dealers' assets are the result of illegal proceeds, and that the proceeds specifically relate to the dealer's conviction. "National would immediately reverse this onus of proof. If a convicted drug dealer can't prove that assets were legally obtained, those assets would be seized.

"The law needs to be turned on its head," says Mr Ryall. Mr Ryall says a visit to the Salvation Army's drug addiction programme in Mt Eden this week confirmed to him the scale of the problem - 60% of clients presenting with P addiction as part of their problems.

"Western Australia leads the world on asset confiscation laws. They allow police to challenge "unexplained wealth" of an individual or gang without obtaining a conviction and they also waive professional legal privilege," says Mr Ryall.

To date this year, police have busted 94 clan labs, compared with 141 last year and 41 in 2001. (WQ 09500)

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