HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Drug Smugglers To Get No Dignity
Pubdate: Saturday, April 24, 1999
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 1999, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Kirk Makin


Bedpan vigils necessary in border searches despite embarrassment, top
court rules

Suspected drug smugglers must be prepared to suffer embarrassing
searches at the border as a necessary price of keeping contraband out
of the country, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled yesterday.

The court overturned the acquittal of a man who was kept in custody at
Toronto's Pearson International Airport on March 13, 1993, until he
had eliminated 84 condom-encased pellets of heroin.

The court said subjecting travellers to "a bedpan vigil" is a fair
price to pay in balancing the right to individual privacy with the
state interest in detecting drugs.

The defendant -- Isaac Monney -- was detained after arriving on a
flight from Switzerland. A customs officer found it odd Mr. Monney had
purchased his ticket with cash that day. His suspicions increased when
he saw Mr. Monney's passport showed he was born in Ghana, a source
country for narcotics.

Mr. Monney became nervous during questioning. He modified several
answers about his criminal record, his reasons for travel and the
route he had chosen. After being detained for several hours in a "drug
loo facility," he provided officers with the self-incriminating
evidence they were hoping for.

Yesterday's ruling overturned an earlier decision by the Ontario Court
of Appeal, which had itself overturned Mr. Monney's conviction at his

In concluding Mr. Monney had been the victim of an unreasonable search
and seizure, the Ontario Court of Appeal said that while the customs
officers had grounds to suspect Mr. Monney of being a drug courier,
these fell short of being reasonable grounds to believe an offence had
been committed. It also ruled that the search amounted to a forced
conscription of the suspect.

Writing for a unanimous court, Mr. Justice Frank Iacobucci said
yesterday that travellers crossing borders have a lowered expectation
of privacy than they would have in the streets.

It said that while they are embarrassing, bedpan vigils are analogous
to strip-searches and less invasive than body-cavity searches, X-rays
or the use of emetics.

"A passive bedpan vigil is the least intrusive means of monitoring the
alimentary canal in circumstances where there is a real danger of
losing evidence, and where the protection and safety of the public are
of primary concern," Mr. Iacobucci said.

Turning to the legitimacy of the customs officers' suspicions, the
court said the inability of a person to keep a story straight leads to
a reasonable conclusion he or she may be lying. 
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