Pubdate: Fri, 29 Feb 2008
Source: Chronicle Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited
Author: Ian Fairclough


Court OKs Move Against Alleged Drug Dealer With No

BERWICK - The provincial Justice Department's director of public
safety investigations served a court-ordered eviction notice Thursday
on a couple and their son in the first case of a community safety
order being contested and upheld by the Supreme Court.

Fred Sanford arrived at the mobile home of Michael Stephen Cochrane,
57; his wife, Laura Mary Cochrane, 56; and their son Mica Andrew
Cochrane, 27, just before 10 a.m. A copy of the order was given to Ms.
Cochrane, then Mr. Sanford and public safety investigator Mike McNeil
attached a large poster advertising the order relating to the trailer,
at 42 Douglas Ave., and a copy of the order.

Mr. Cochrane told CTV News on Thursday he feels unfairly targeted by
the authorities.

"They wanted somebody to crucify," he said. "They're just using it for

Mr. Cochrane said he hasn't done anything illegal.

"For the last six years, I was running a needle exchange," he told
CTV. "People brought me their dirty needles, and I exchanged them for
new ones."

Mr. Cochrane said he's upset about being flagged as a person allegedly
involved in the drug trade.

"There's a two-foot by three-foot sign on the . . . wall, saying Drug
Activity. I mean, that would upset anybody."

The department has issued 38 such orders under the Safer Communities
and Neighbourhoods Act since April of last year. The act is designed
to improve community safety by targeting and, if necessary, shutting
down residential and commercial buildings and land that are regularly
used for illegal activities. Complaints to the public safety division
can come from the public or police.

Normally, Mr. Sanford said, investigators serve tenants or property
owners with a notice to vacate the premises, and they comply. But the
Cochranes wouldn't leave, and the issue ended up in Supreme Court here
last week for a hearing over two days.

It was a test of the new law, and Mr. Sanford said it passed with
flying colours.

"The judge obviously accepted the results of our investigation, and
the legislation," he said.

Like most of the other 38 eviction orders and 156 investigations under
the act, this one centred on drugs. The Cochranes were charged last
September with possession of cannabis resin and possession of
morphine, marijuana and Dilaudid for the purpose of trafficking. They
have pleaded not guilty and will be tried June 11.

They also face four charges from last Oct. 25: possession of morphine,
possession of Dilaudid, trafficking in morphine and trafficking in
Dilaudid. They will be tried on those charges Sept. 9.

Mr. Sanford said his unit does not need convictions or even charges to
issue eviction orders, but investigators can use information gathered
in criminal investigations to apply for the orders. This order
followed an investigation conducted by Mr. Sanford's unit and the RCMP.

The Cochranes own the trailer but rent the lot. The trailer must be
removed by March 31, and if it is not, the Cochranes are to be evicted
and the property secured for 90 days. A further order can then be
requested. A sign saying the trailer is for sale by owner was in the
front window Thursday.

After the provincial cabinet meeting Thursday, cabinet minister David
Morse said the court's decision is very significant.

"(It) sends a great signal that the courts are backing our
legislation," said Mr. Morse, speaking on behalf of Justice Minister
Cecil Clarke, who was out of province.

Mr. Morse said this law allows authorities to act on citizens'
complaints with a lower standard of proof.

"People may be aware that there's some illegal activity happening in a
home. They may be apprehensive about bringing it forward. This allows
them to do it confidentially, and it empowers our justice system to
take action."
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