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Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

The Criminal Proceeds and Instruments Bill introduced in Parliament yesterday is a gross violation of the principles of justice and does not address the real issue of how to stop gang-related crime, says the Alliance.

The Bill proposes the confiscation of property of people merely suspected of having benefited from criminal activity, according to Kelly Buchanan, Alliance spokesperson on human rights. The Bill would apply to people against whom there is insufficient evidence to take to court, or who have been tried and acquitted.

"The concept of 'innocent until proven guilty' is fundamental to our legal system, and this Bill specifically targets people who have not been proven guilty of a crime. Instead, they will be required to provide proof of the provenance of their assets, which may not be possible even if they were legitimately acquired."

To refer to the people affected by the bill as criminals is highly misleading, Ms Buchanan says.

"While the Bill would result in a form of punishment for some criminals who would otherwise get away with it, the Bill is also certain to result in wrongful seizure of the assets of the innocent.

"Furthermore, there is a serious risk that the bill could be abused to deliberately persecute people who are known to be innocent, for personal or political reasons."

Ms Buchanan says the current Government is all too ready to ignore people's basic rights when it finds them inconvenient.

"This is just another symptom of the same attitude that allowed the imprisonment of Ahmed Zaoui for two years without even accusing him of a crime."

The Alliance says the Bill does not address the pressing issue of how to deal with gang-related crime. The Alliance says secure jobs and decent pay are needed [ www.alliance.org.nz ] , as well as adequate police resources and restorative justice, in which the needs of the victim are central and which work to turn people away from criminal activity.


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