Pubdate: Thu, 26 Feb 2015
Source: Western Star, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2015 The Western Star
Author: Gary Kean
Page: 6


Supreme Court Justice Admonishes RCMP for Handling of Roadside Drug Bust

Four months after being involved in a court decision that took note 
of how the police had violated a man's Charter rights during a drug 
bust, one of the officers breached the rights of two more men in a 
similar roadside investigation.

This time, though, it is likely the case will be tossed out of court.

Const. Leon Sheppard of the RCMP Traffic Services West was one of two 
officers who pulled over Philip Jordy Blanchard in 2008.

The officers claimed to have reason to suspect Blanchard was involved 
in drug activity, called in a police dog and wound up seizing almost 
30 pounds of pot from his vehicle.

Blanchard pleaded not guilty, but was convicted even though the trial 
judge had said the police had violated his Charter rights because the 
suspicions they had for ordering and conducting the search were not reasonable.

Blanchard appealed the decision and lost.

The appeal court's decision in May 2011 agreed there were violations 
of Blanchard's Charter rights, but felt none amounted to a grave 
infringement on his liberty or personal dignity.

Fast forward to Wednesday morning, when Justice David Hurley of the 
Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador ruled a large quantity of 
drugs seized by Sheppard during a traffic stop in August 2011 cannot 
be entered as evidence because he once again violated Charter rights.

In this latest case, two men from Ontario - Christopher Correia 
Gomes, 35, and Slobodan Bobby Milinkovic, 38 - were charged with 
numerous offences after 19 pounds of marijuana, four kilograms of 
cocaine and a smaller amount of cannabis resin were found in their car.

The court heard Sheppard had called for the services of a police dog 
and its handler within four minutes of stopping the car.

Hurley ruled these were not reasonable suspicions to detain Gomes and 
Milinkovic and ruled doing so had violated their Carter rights.

In the Blanchard decision, it was noted Nova Scotia was a known 
source of drug importation.

Having referenced the Blanchard case and another case in which Quebec 
is listed as a known source for drugs being brought in to 
Newfoundland and Labrador, Hurley called Sheppard's actions an 
affront to the court.

Hurley said neither the drugs, nor any admissions Gomes or Milinkovic 
may have made during their detention, could be used as evidence 
against them because it was all gained by an unlawful detention and search.



What the lawyers said

Imagine being told to sit on a rock on the side of the highway, 
handcuffed and being denied a request to use the bathroom for 90 
minutes while the police conduct a search based solely on a hunch.

That scenario, said lawyer Averill Baker, is unacceptable but one 
that her client, Slobodan Bobby Milinkovic, found himself in on Aug. 4, 2011.

Milinkovic, 38, and Christopher Correia Gomes, 35, were pulled over 
by Const. Leon Sheppard of RCMP Traffic Services West for speeding 
just west of Corner Brook.

In the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in Corner Brook 
Wednesday morning, Justice David Hurley said Sheppard had violated 
the men's Charter rights because his suspicions for detaining them 
and ordering a search of the car were not reasonable.

"That's a police state and the kind of conduct the courts want to 
distance themselves from," Baker said of the arbitrary nature with 
which the two men were detained.

Sandi MacKinnon, who represented Gomes, drew attention to Hurley's 
comments that this roadside stop was an affront to the court.

"When you say it's an affront, that's basically saying it's offensive 
to the court and offensive to people's rights," said MacKinnon.

The fact 19 pounds of marijuana, four kilograms of cocaine and a 
smaller amount of cannabis resin was taken off the streets may be a 
good thing, but it is not likely Crown attorney David Mills will 
continue with this particular prosecution. He said he will take some 
time to review Hurley's decision, but the matter will be called again 
Monday at which time he will indicate whether the case will proceed or not.

"They have a very difficult job to do," Mills said of the RCMP's 
efforts to put dents in the illegal drug trade. "I think they're 
doing it very well. It's easy to criticize after the fact, but there 
is an obvious problem on the highways with drugs coming into the province."

Mills said every case is a learning process for the police, the Crown 
and the judges who hear these cases.
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