Queensland Law Society

Weakness in “tough on crime” approach

Date 05 Dec 2012
Contact Natalie Graeff, Manager Corporate Communication
Phone 07 3842 5868
Mobile 0488 433 884
Fax 07 3220 0616
Email n.graeff@qls.com.au

Queensland Law Society said today there were a number of weaknesses in the government’s “tough on crime” approach, highlighted by new criminal wealth and assets legislation.

Deputy President Annette Bradfield said the laws took the extraordinary step of reversing the onus of proof and gave the government the right to take people’s legitimately earned assets.

“The laws set a dangerous standard for the presumption of guilt rather than innocence as the accused must prove their wealth or assets were obtained using legal proceeds or they can be seized,” Ms Bradfield said.

“Reversing the onus of proof rings alarm bells as it’s the fundamental tenet that ensures the effectiveness and fairness of our legal system.

“Assets and wealth don’t even need to be linked to a particular offence to be seized.

“For those declared to be drug traffickers, it can include gifts given to others up to six years before the alleged offence.

“It’s the thin edge of the wedge as the State only has to prove on the balance of probabilities that there is reasonable suspicion a person has been involved in a crime, which could result in pretty flimsy excuses for taking someone’s assets.

“There’s also a major problem with the wording of the law as it forces the hand of the courts to order the confiscation of assets, whether this is appropriate to the case or not.

“It’s intrusive legislation that further diminishes the discretion of the courts – a common thread that runs through many of this year’s legislative decisions.

“In any event there is some repetition as we already have the Criminal Proceeds Confiscation Act 2002 and judges can exercise their discretion to penalise people convicted of major crime and drug offences.”