HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Toronto Police Can Approach Anyone To Buy Drugs On
Pubdate: Mon, 23 Aug 2004
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2004 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Shannon Kari / CanWest News Service
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


TORONTO -- A nearly one kilometre-long stretch of a busy Toronto street has 
been designated a target area where police can approach "any person" and 
try to coerce them to sell drugs to an undercover officer.

Normally police must have specific targets. But an Ontario Superior Court 
judge has ruled that because trafficking along a stretch of Eglinton Avenue 
East in the Scarborough area of Toronto was "mobile," it justified random 
stops of people to see if they would sell drugs to undercover officers.

In a ruling that could expand the powers of urban drug squads, Justice 
Harry LaForme upheld the conviction of a man who sold $40 (less than a 
tenth of a gram) of crack cocaine to a Toronto police officer. The man, 
Sean Sterling, 23, had argued he was a victim of police entrapment.

But in the ruling released earlier this month, LaForme said police must be 
given "substantial leeway in investigation techniques" because of the 
"social consequence" of trafficking.

In an earlier decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in a case 
involving Vancouver's Granville Mall that police may target an area instead 
of a specific person and attempt to solicit drug sales if there is evidence 
of trafficking and the area is "sufficiently defined."

In the Ontario court case, LaForme accepted police testimony that while 
street-level trafficking is normally "site specific" the practice differs 
in Scarborough.

"In Scarborough it is a more mobile drug trafficking operation though the 
use of vehicles and bicycles," wrote LaForme, who imposed an eight-month 
conditional sentence on Sterling.

During a three-day hearing last month, LaForme heard evidence from drug 
squad officers about attempts to make "opportunity buys" of crack cocaine 
along an 800-metre section of the street.

A Toronto police constable testified that while driving he observed a 
"young black male with baggy clothes," walking along the street.

The officer said this description "absolutely matched" his profile of drug 
dealers in the area.

The suspect, later identified as Sterling, was "meandering around, looking 
around and looked approachable," the officer testified. He pulled his car 
into the parking lot of a strip mall, approached the man and said he was 
looking for a "40-piece man-rock."

The officer purchased less than a tenth of a gram of crack cocaine and then 
arrested Sterling.

Sterling's lawyer Peter Bawden, who praised LaForme for serious 
consideration of the entrapment argument, noted that the judge did not 
accept one officer's testimony that the drug target area on Eglinton Avenue 
should be nearly seven kilometres long. The defence lawyer also questioned 
the strategy of Toronto police drug squads for a focus on street-level 
dealers, who are frequently addicts, selling small amounts of crack to 
subsidize their habit.

"Police are not going after people higher up in the (drug) chain," said Bawden.

LaForme, who is aboriginal, is reportedly a potential candidate for one of 
two existing vacancies on the Supreme Court of Canada. He is known for 
writing an Ontario Divisional Court ruling, later upheld by the Ontario 
Court of Appeal, which permitted same-sex marriages. He also issued an 
order in 1998 granting a man with AIDS the right to cultivate and use 
marijuana for medicinal purposes.
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