Pubdate: Tue, 03 Mar 2015
Source: Western Star, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2015 The Western Star
Page: 4


On Aug. 4, 2011, two men were handcuffed and made to sit on a rock
alongside the highway for an hour and a half while RCMP officers
searched their rental vehicle based on a suspicion there may be drugs

The reasons for the officer's suspicions were this: The two men had
fishing gear, but limited knowledge of Newfoundland and Labrador's
fishing practices; the car was rented in a third party's name; they
were travelling from Ontario, a supposed known source for drug
importation; contents inside the car indicated the men's trip was for
a longer time than they had indicated to the officer; and the presence
of hand sanitizer, sometimes used to mask drug scents.

The fact that 19 pounds of marijuana and four kilograms of cocaine
were seized from the car mattered little on Friday when a provincial
court judge in Corner Brook deemed the RCMP's search of the vehicle
violated the men's Charter rights.

Monday, the charges against the two formerly accused were all

The same RCMP officer had been involved in a similar arrest in 2008,
however the judge ruled at the time that the Charter violations in
that case weren't a grave infringement of the accused's liberty or
personal dignity.

A conviction was entered, and was upheld on appeal.

It may seem an incredible notion to many that drugs can be found
inside a vehicle and the people accused of possessing them are now
free to go. Many would call it a technicality.

The reality, however, is that police work in real life rarely plays
out like it does in most movies or TV cop dramas.

It's clear from these two court decisions on similar cases that
there's a grey area between a reasonable search and the invasion of
someone's privacy.

Under that same right, when the case reaches court it's the Crown, not
the accused, that has to prove everything went by the book.

Let's be clear: this doesn't seem to be a case of an overzealous
police officer consciously setting out to violate someone's rights
just to take a bunch of illegal drugs off the streets.

Crown attorney David Mills may have said it best: When trying to put a
dent in the illegal drug trade, every case is a learning process for
the police, the Crown and the judges involved.

The justice system has to walk a fine line between arresting the
criminals and not "handcuffing" police officers from doing their work.

They may not always get it right, but hopefully cases like these will
help find a way to strengthen officers' abilities to carry out
searches in the future, rather than hinder them.
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