HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Prosecutors Silent On Pot Decision
Pubdate: Sat, 20 Sep 2008
Source: Chronicle Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited
Author: Tom McCoag, Amherst Bureau
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


No Answers About Decision To Drop Charges

AMHERST - Federal prosecutors aren't about to say why drug charges
against two Halifax County men were dropped nearly three years after
they were laid and just three weeks before their trial was to begin.

"I have no comment," local federal prosecutor Doug Shatford said

Drug charges against John Alfred Hardy, 50, of Ingramport and Alex
Banfield, 44, of Upper Tantallon were mysteriously dropped during a
pretrial conference in Amherst provincial court on Tuesday.

The two were arrested after RCMP found two men tending a marijuana
crop on the Valley Road in Wentworth, Cumberland County, in October

A subsequent search of two houses in the area by the RCMP uncovered
two large marijuana-growing operations. Police seized more than 1,000
marijuana plants from the two homes, $1,000 worth of electronic
equipment used in the grow-op and an undisclosed amount of money.

Mr. Hardy was charged with two counts each of unlawfully producing a
controlled substance, possessing marijuana for the purpose of
trafficking and stealing electricity worth less than $5,000 from Nova
Scotia Power.

Mr. Banfield faced one count each of the same charges.

An audiotape of Tuesday's hearing indicates the defence was taken by
surprise when Mr. Shatford told the court that the federal Crown would
not be offering any evidence on the drug charges at the upcoming
trial. Judge Carole Beaton then dismissed the charges.

Mr. Shatford told the court Tuesday he was acting on instructions but
did not say whose. On Friday he said the instructions came from the
Federal Prosecution Service of Canada and that any comment would have
to come from the service.

David Schermbrucker, a spokesman for the prosecution service, said the
federal Crown looks at two things in deciding when to proceed with a

"We look at whether we have a reasonable prospect of obtaining a
conviction and whether it is in the public interest to proceed," Mr.
Schermbrucker said in Halifax. "The answer to those two questions can
change over time."

When the service recently reviewed the matter, it concluded the case
no longer met the test for prosecution, he said.

"I can't explain any more than that," Mr. Schermbrucker said. "I
cannot go behind the reasons. Mr. Banfield and Mr. Hardy were not
given reasons why the case was not proceeding, and it would not be
fair to them to explain it to the public."

Mr. Banfield and Mr. Hardy still face charges of theft for allegedly
stealing less than $5,000 of electricity from Nova Scotia Power. The
trial is to begin Oct. 7 and is expected to take two days.
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