Pubdate: Mon, 08 Dec 2014
Source: Western Star, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2014 The Western Star
Author: Cory Hurley


A Supreme Court justice has thrown out evidence from a traffic stop in
the case against two Quebec men charged with drug offences in the fall
of 2011.

Justice Laura Mennie granted the application to exclude evidence from
the Oct. 24, 2011 traffic stop that led to the charges of two counts
each of trafficking in marijuana and cannabis resin and two counts
each of possession of illegal drugs for the purposes of trafficking
against Sylvain Charbonneau, 59, and Jean Dessailliers, 44.

Both men, under the legal counsel of Robbie Ash, had argued breaches
of their Charter rights.

Officers Cpl. Terry Alexander and Const. Leon Sheppard followed the
pick-up truck, which had a number of chain saws secured in the pan of
the truck, starting from the old weigh scales west of Corner Brook.
They had recalled some "vague information" concerning a truck from
Quebec travelling to Newfoundland and carrying chainsaws that may be
involved in criminal activity. The information could not be verified
at the time. The stop was made near Corner Brook after it appeared the
drivers were indecisive of which direction they were going at the
Massey Drive exit. While there was some debate over obstruction of
traffic, safe driving practices or possible impairment, the officers
testified they thought the driver may have been lost.

While the officers asked the driver if he was lost, they did not let
them continue on their way after it was determined they weren't.

Also, as recorded by the police vehicle's system, one officer told the
other, "they definitely got something." A search of Charbonneau's
vehicle uncovered about 26 kilograms of marijuana and a kilogram of

In her written decision, Mennie said she has "significant concerns"
about the credibility and reliability of both officers. She concluded
the stop was not related to driving or highway safety, but to verify
the "vague information." The Highway Traffic Act does not allow
vehicles to be stopped for reasons unrelated to driving, and stops may
not be used as a means of conducting investigations into
unsubstantiated suspicions, stated the justice.

Mennie also concluded the officers' suspicions that led to the
detention of the two men were also insufficient. She determined the
subsequent use of the police dog unit was not authorized by law, thus
the arrest of Dessailliers was unlawful. The justice also concluded
the arrest of Charbonneau was done prior to the drugs being found,
when there was no reasonable and probable grounds.

Even if they arrested the driver for the second time, Mennie said she
still would have concluded his arrest was unlawful.

The drugs were found in a false bottom of a gas container. She also
concluded the search of the vehicle was unlawful.

Despite some language barriers between the officers and the
French-only speaking Charbonneau, Mennie did determine he was
sufficiently advised of his right to counsel, and in a manner he
understood and followed adequately.

The justice said the violations of the Charter rights in this case
were "extremely serious," and the officers knew, or should have known,
their conduct was not Charter-compliant.

"... Both police officers were so intent on confirming whether or not
Mr. Charbonneau was involved in criminal activity that they decided to
stop him for reasons unauthorized at law," Mennie wrote.

The justice also noted it is not the first time the courts have dealt
with Charter breaches against the "Roving Traffic Unit" and these two

"The lack of regard shown by the officers in this case to Mr.
Charbonneau and Mr. Dessailliers' Charter rights was shocking," she

"Their conduct illustrated a complete disregard for the Charter and
the values it enshrines."  
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D