British Columbia’s Director of Civil Forfeiture applied to remove one the last remaining personal defendants as a party to the long-running Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation case in an apparent attempt to evade Charter arguments which might be available to individuals but unavailable to the corporate defendant:
“The prize in this application appears to be the availability of a Charter argument in the forfeiture proceedings. The judge referred to the possibility that an argument on admissibility of evidence may be available under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to Mr. Widdifield, but not to the registered owner of the property, Angel Acres. If the Charter argument is not available to Angel Acres, proceeding against it alone may provide the Director with an easier route to judgment.”
The Director appealed the denial of its application to remove the personal defendant, but its appeal was dismissed, as follows:
“The judge was well aware of the procedural history of the litigation. He knew there was some basis for a claim on Mr. Widdifield’s part to a commercial or financial interest in the outcome of the action. He knew that he was considering a case in which Mr. Widdifield was alleged to have one or more legal relationship with the registered owner of the real property. Most importantly, he knew he was not considering the addition of a party, but rather the removal of a party after a lengthy period of legal skirmishing. These were matters relevant to Mr. Widdifield being a proper party to the action as it goes forward.”
The Court of Appeal’s decision in this regard may force the Director to adopt a more cautious approach to adding Defendants in future forfeiture proceedings. Once a Defendant has been dragged through years of litigation, the Director cannot simply remove that Defendant when their presence on the style of cause presents a strategic inconvenience.
Decided by the BC Court of Appeal on June 2, 2014.
Click here for the full text of the decision.