Parts of Hells Angels report ruled inadmissible at civil forfeiture trial

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A B.C. judge has criticized a retired police expert on the Hells Angels as biased

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has criticized an “expert” report about the Hells Angels filed by the Director of Civil Forfeiture as full of biased, unsubstantiated claims about the biker club.

Justice Barry Davies ruled that several parts of the report are inadmissible in the director’s long-running civil case against the Hells Angels.

Davies was also critical of the report’s author, retired Ontario Provincial Police Det. Staff Sgt. Len Isnor, who Davies said relied on his “long held” conclusion that the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is a criminal organization.

Isnor testified in December at a voir dire (a trial within a trial) to determine the admissibility of his report.

Davies said that Isnor’s explanations in his testimony “seeking to distance himself from his long-held and often-stated conclusions were at best disingenuous.”

Retired Det.-Staff. Sgt. Len Isnor, of the Ontario Provincial Police. Handout / Vancouver Sun

The civil forfeiture director is trying to get Hells Angels clubhouses in East Vancouver, Nanaimo and Kelowna forfeited to the government as the instruments of criminal activity. The Hells Angels have counter-sued the government, claiming the Civil Forfeiture Act is unconstitutional. The case has been ongoing since November 2007 when police raided the Nanaimo clubhouse.

The civil trial finally began last April and has continued on and off over the last year with testimony from police, former Toronto Hells Angel turned police agent Dave Atwell and Micheal Plante, who infiltrated the HA for police in B.C.

Phil Tawtel, the executive director of the Civil Forfeiture Office, said Tuesday that he couldn’t comment on Davies’ latest ruling “while the matter remains before the court.”

In his ruling, Davies ordered all of Isnor’s references to police investigations of other “Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs” removed from the report.

And he noted that Isnor’s evidence about Hells Angels photographs he saw inside B.C. clubhouses, “establish serious concerns with respect to the extent that his opinions are tainted by confirmation bias, speculation and tautological reasoning.”

“My first concern arises from Mr. Isnor’s evidence that not only have his opinions remained fixed for many years, but that he has participated as a leader in the design and implementation of courses for law enforcement personnel on how to provide expert evidence ‘that works’ in rendering opinions on the alleged criminality of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club as an Outlaw Motorcycle Gang,” Davies said.

Isnor tended to accept evidence that supported his pre-conceived notions about the bikers, Davies said, while rejecting other evidence that contradicted his assertion “that every chapter and member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club as a world-wide criminal organization is required to ‘give a percentage of his gross from criminal activities’ to the Hells Angels.”

“His evidence on this issue also causes me grave concern about his willingness to discharge his duty fairly and impartially,” Davies said.

“I am not, however, prepared to say that Mr. Isnor’s selectivity on that issue or his misplaced defence of it go so far as to require the exclusion of all of his opinions.”

Davies noted that Isnor has been declared an expert on the Hells Angels at least 22 times in various proceedings across the country, although not specifically on the role clubhouses play within the organization.

Davies also raised concerns about Isnor’s opinion that Hells Angels members not convicted of any crime were simply “role players” in the club.

“That characterization of those members who do not conform with Mr. Isnor’s opinions about the criminal purposes of the organization gives rise to serious partiality concerns,” Davies said.

The trial is scheduled to resume April 1.

Meanwhile, the B.C. government introduced amendments Tuesday to the 13-year-old Civil Forfeiture Act to make it easier to seize assets that criminals try to hide in another person’s name or outside of the province.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the changes are the most significant since the act became law in 2006.

“Police agencies are working tirelessly to take gang members and dealers of deadly fentanyl off B.C.’s streets,” Farnworth said. “Beefing up civil forfeiture to better undermine gang and organized crime is timely and necessary to supplement those frontline, life-saving efforts.”

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