Province seizes – and sells – northwestern BC house

Terrace RCMP believed the home was used for drug trafficking

A local woman charged with illegal drug offences but never convicted has lost her house to the provincial government.

Ellen New was originally charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking in 2010 and had more charges added later only. But all were then stayed in Oct. 2012.

Police then asked the provincial government’s civil forfeiture office to seize New’s house, saying it was used for drug trafficking and that proceeds from that trafficking were used to increase her equity in the property, according to a notice of civil claim.

Her home at 3810 Pine Ave. was subsequently forfeited to the provincial government in July 2013 and sold for $91,500 on Nov. 5, 2013. Also seized by the province was $2,860.

This is the third such forfeiture in Terrace since a civil forfeiture law was introduced in 2005.

In 2012, two houses believed to be used as marijuana grow-ops – one at 4740 Soucie Ave. and the other at 3515 King Ave. – were forfeited.

The Soucie Ave. home sold for $112,000 and the King Ave. home sold for $88,500.

Criminal charges were only approved for the Soucie Ave. address and were stayed one week before trial in September 2010.

The civil forfeiture law allows the provincial government to use civil court rules and processes to go after property, vehicles and other assets it believes were used in, or acquired through, unlawful activity.

In a civil trial, one party’s case need only be more probable than the other, a situation that’s entirely separate from the burden of proof required in criminal court.

Money recovered is paid into a special account and used to compensate crime victims, fund crime prevention programs, and pay for the costs of administering the act.

Information provided by the civil forfeiture office indicates it must consider three issues when making a decision to ask that an asset be seized.

Those issues are whether there is evidence to support a seizure request, whether there is a public interest in pursuing a seizure and whether there is strong evidence and a public interest in asking for a seizure even if it is not financially viable to do so.