WATCH: A Nanaimo neighbourhood is watching a trial unfold in a Vancouver courtroom. At stake is the future of a Hells Angels clubhouse seized in 2007 under B.C.’s civil forfeiture act. Lawyers representing the Hells Angels are challenging the constitutionality of the law. But as Kendall Hanson reports, people living nearby are just hoping for a resolution.
For more than a decade, the Hells Angels clubhouse has been a growing eyesore in a south Nanaimo neighbourhood.
“Obviously the building has not got better looking over the years,” said neighbour Gord Bestwick. “It’s gone into a state of decay. Honestly, I think our neighbourhood needs the closure to move on.”
But the Hells Angels haven’t moved on. They now occupy properties right beside the former clubhouse. Video surveillance cameras record who’s coming and going.
A neighbour says while the Hells Angels have been good to live beside, the outcome of this trial may help the Angels move on.
“The neighbourhood is getting gentrified and it’s turning into more of a family neighbourhood with parks so it wouldn’t surprise me if they went and found a more suitable venue for their meetings and get-togethers,” said Bestwick.
In 2007, police officers raided the clubhouse. The property was seized under BC’s new civil forfeiture act.
In 2012, clubhouses in Kelowna and Vancouver were also seized.
The province claims the clubhouses enhance the Hells Angels ability to commit serious criminal offences.
A lawyer for the club wants to have the Civil Forfeiture Act declared unconstitutional.
A criminologist says there’s a lot riding on the trial’s outcome.
“There are other organizations and individuals who are engaged in crime who will be watching this very carefully because of the implications for their activities if the province wins,” said Rob Gordon, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University.
If the government wins, it would certainly impact the neighbourhoods where the clubhouses are located.
“I think frankly I’d like to see the place bulldozed and even an empty lot at this point would probably be an improvement,” said Bestwick.
The trial is set for five weeks.