A former State attorney-general, Jim McGinty, has backed calls to reform WA’s tough crime confiscation laws amid concerns innocent West Australians are being punished for the wrongdoing of family members.
The shift comes as Attorney-General John Quigley considers a “thorough” review of the laws, while the State Government debates handing proceeds of crime powers to the Corruption and Crime Commission.
Mr McGinty, who was the first attorney-general to oversee the laws when they were put into action in 2001, agreed with critics that the legislation needed a “hardship clause” to give judges leeway in deciding whether a confiscation order should be applied.
The Confiscation Act was introduced by the Court government as part of a get-tough-on-crime campaign, but was supported by the Gallop government when it won office in 2001.
The wide-reaching laws allowed police to seize the assets of people who had committed a crime carrying a sentence of more than two years, or if they had been declared a drug trafficker by police.
Police are also able to levy financial penalties under the “crime used” element of the Act, which effectively allows prosecutors to demand funds from a perpetrator equal to the value of the property where the crime was committed.
The laws were to be aimed at the “Mr Bigs” of the crime world, but in recent times stories have emerged of average West Australians being threatened with the loss of their homes for either minor crimes or the crimes of family members.
Currently, judges have no power to rule out a confiscation order, even if they agree it is unreasonable.
Mr McGinty said it was important tough laws were in place to deal with drug dealers and organised criminals, but agreed changes needed to be made to protect “innocent third parties”.
Late last year mother Miriam Down was threatened with the loss of her home after she grew cannabis plants to help treat her son’s mental illness.
At the weekend eminent barrister and former WA governor Malcolm McCusker called for a change to the laws, throwing his support behind the case of a Vietnamese immigrant facing the loss of her home because of her husband’s crimes.