HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Top Court Asked To Revisit Key Pot Ruling
Pubdate: Wed, 08 Sep 2004
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2004 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Mike McIntyre
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


The Supreme Court of Canada has been asked to revisit a landmark
decision on a Winnipeg drug case on the grounds it remains unclear how
far police can go in searching potential suspects.

Police officers across the country can no longer play hunches and go
on "fishing expeditions" for evidence when questioning potential
suspects, the country's highest court ruled in July.

The decision overturned the Manitoba Court of Appeal and ruled
Winnipeg police had no right to search the pocket of a native man
found walking downtown in December 2000.

Although police found 27.5 grams of marijuana on Phillip Mann, the
evidence has been discarded on the grounds it was illegally obtained.
As a result, Mann was cleared of drug trafficking charges.

"Individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their
pockets," Justice Frank Iacobucci wrote in a majority decision that
divided the high court 5-2.

In a rare move, the federal prosecutor has now asked the Supreme Court
to clarify its decision. Federal Crown prosecutor David Frankel claims
the court's definitions were vague and should be clearly spelled out
so that police forces can instruct their officers accordingly.

The public should also know when they interact with the police what
the limits of police powers are, he said.

Mann's lawyer, Amanda Sansregret, has filed an objection to the
review, claiming the decision requires no further explanation.

"The message has been clearly articulated -- police can't just stop
someone because they don't like the look of them," she said.

Police claim they stopped Mann because he matched the description of a
native suspect wanted for a nearby break-and-enter.

Mann agreed to let police do a "security search," which officers
describe as a "pat-down of the extremities as well as the torso" in
order to check for potential weapons. Police say Mann was wearing a
pullover sweater that had a pouch in the front. An officer brushed
against the pouch and said he felt something soft inside. He searched
and found a plastic bag containing the pot.

This case was the first time the high court had examined an everyday
police practice that many law officers and prosecutors take for granted.

It has already been cited twice in cases across the country in
limiting how the police can search people.

The Supreme Court will examine the application for the review later
this fall.
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