Friday, July 29, 2011

Ecstasy case thrown out over charter violations



My first thought when reading the headline was another crackpot judge throwing out another gang related drug bust over a stupid technicality. Like the case where police when exercising a search warrant knocked on the front door but failed to knock on the back door too. Throwing out all that evidence over that technicality was absurd. Or setting Jon Bacon free after he was caught with two machines gun and a silencer.

However, this case is a little more complicated and warrants a discussion on the importance of the Charter and the right to be protected from unnecessary searches and seizures. Obviously that clause has many of us dealing with the violence of a drug related gang war frustrated.

Historically, the clause was added to the US Constitution after the founding fathers in the American revolution said they didn't want big brother meddling in their affairs all the time. The purpose of the clause was not to help organized crime. The purpose of the clause was to prevent us from becoming a police state like in a Communist country or under the Third Reich where citizens can be randomly searched at any time for any reason. It is easy to see how that could easily be exploited if the police simply wanted to harass someone for their religious or political beliefs.

Personally I think if you're a known gang member then that would suffice as just cause to randomly search that known gang member when they go out in public for drugs or guns. If you're a known gang member with a firearms ban then that would be just cause to randomly search that known gang member or their vehicle for firearms. Not in their home in the middle of the night. When they go out in public and threaten public safety.

The courts don't necessarily see it that way but I don't think we should change the Charter and water it down. The problem rises in what the police define as a gang member or a terrorist. If you are a Branch Dividian, does that make you a gang member or a terrorist? No it does not. What if you are a member of a trade union or a Muslim? Does that make you a terrorist or a risk to public safety? No it does not.

Protecting the charter is an important thing. Yet it is also important to remember the spirit of the Charter and the reason it was introduced. The purpose of the charter is not to protect organized crime it is to protect individuals right to freedom of association. Now that freedom of association does not include the right to commit crime or belong to a criminal organization and no, joining a bowling league or motorcycle club does not automatically mean criminal organization.

However, the case law has been long established that the Hells angels use the name and reputation of their organization to sell and protect people who sell drugs for them. It has become clear that the Hells Angels use puppet clubs to sell drugs and to commit crime for them. After it had been legally established that the hells angels are a criminal organization, their clubhouse was seized in Halifax. Changing the name of that clubhouse to Darksiders, Bacchus or Anarchy bikers does not removed the Hells angels criminal involvement and vested interest in that clubhouse.

We have seen televised fictional drama about police investigating large drug operations and how important timing is to make the bust. The comedy Bad Boys showed the police getting a search warrant in the middle of the night for an urgent application before the drugs were moved. Likely that was the intent of the police getting a telephone warrant from a court outside of their jurisdiction in the Richmond Ecstasy bust.

I have two points. First, the human ego is apparent. Judges and police are all human. They can and do sometimes become arrogant thinking they are god and the other organization is subordinate to them. As common as that seems, there is no place for arrogance or power struggles in law enforcement.

My other point is that in my opinion one of the most important reasons for requiring the police to get a search warrant is to see what kind of evidence the police have that would give them reason to believe drugs or firearms are in that locations. If the police are going to use dynamic entry with weapons drawn, then they better be sure they have the right house or the right suite number.

Not long ago we saw a case in Ontario where the police broke in with guns drawn and had the wrong house. In another case in Ontario SWAT had the wrong house and the tenant fired back thinking it was a home invasion. Getting a search warrant hopefully minimizes the number of mistakes of crashing down the wrong door.

I do think knocking on the door is important. My father always used to object to ERT wearing balaclavas. He'd say if some guy with an automatic weapon wearing army fatigues and a balaclava comes baning on my door yelling open up it's the police, I'm sure not going to open the door. I have no idea it's not a terrorist.

Stun grenades sure sounds excessive too, especially when they get the wrong house. I realize that when making a large drug bust surprise is important. Every extra minute they take in opening the door they could be poring the drugs down the sink or toilet. Yet the whole idea of the police having a search warrant thinking that gives them the right to break down your door without notice and start throwing stun grenades anywhere they want is disturbing.

Protection from unnecessary searches and seizures, protection from arbitrary arrest and detainment, the requirement to be charged with an offense for an arrest and the right to a fair and reasonably speedy trial are indeed important rights in a world where strange things are happening in our political climate. The Constitution and the charter of rights in the spirit of the intent they were framed are still important measuring sticks to safeguard democracy.

4 comments:

  1. There's a lot of new information on this case, and we see it's the same Mounties who screwed up the Surrey Six case, that destroyed this case as well!

    "After arresting two of the men at one of the residences — one of whom was only wearing boxers, the other just boxers and a T-shirt — police handcuffed them and told them to sit on the front lawn. They waited for about 30 minutes for firefighters to arrive, at which point the men were hosed down with cold water in an effort to decontaminate them of any toxic chemicals present in the lab."

    (Judge) "Meyers criticized the officers for doing so without using any privacy screens, as neighbours looked on. The men later testified they did not understand what was happening at the time."

    "These factors, in addition to Michaud's choice to seek a telewarrant rather than apply for one in person, and failure to file a report in the Richmond court registry within seven days of the warrants' execution, prompted Meyers to conclude the officers "were totally unconcerned with what Charter Rights these Co-Accuseds were guaranteed by virtue of Canadian law," he wrote."

    "The officers in charge just did not seem to care."

    http://tinyurl.com/3h3qr36

    "They just don't care"...What a shocking verdict on our supposedly "professional" Police forces our lives depend on.

    Maybe it is time to disband the out-dated and out-moded RCMP. They were, and are, only farm boys off the back forty from Brandon. No more than a shaky High-School education necessary. Life is just far too complicated for these simple country bumpkins, who are up against sophisticated worldly criminals.

    They have spent their time padding overtime records and expense accounts. And, so far, NOTHING else.

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  2. Yeah hosing down the suspects in public during winter was somewhat of a breach. It does imply little regard for others. I didn’t realize one of them was charged with breach of trust in the Surrey Six case. Wonderful. I’m not sure if the VPD or the New Westminster PD are any better. The use of force trainer from New West was one of the cops that assaulted and robbed the newspaper deliveryman in Vancouver. It’s sad.

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  3. Cops do weird things like this all the time. I had an insane neighbor once who accused me of running a meth lab because I mopped my floor with some green cleaner junk I bought at London Drugs. Cops banged on my door but covered the peephole so I couldn't see them, and they sounded strange like somebody pretending to be a cop. Told them to uncover the peephole so I could see them and they refused, so said I was phoning 911 to confirm they were actually police. Got confirmation, opened the door and then they arrested me for obstruction (wtf??) tossed my entire apartment throwing stuff everywhere and of course found nothing, then gruffly uncuffed me and let me go without an apology.

    Sued them using the Pivot legal society for $5k for a false arrest, judge upped it to $12k because of the phoney obstruction charge they gave me. Courts are tired of lazy police not doing the most basic of procedures. Can't blame the judge for letting these guy's go, not like the police didn't have years of training on how not to screw up investigations. If the judge did nothing they would've dragged this out to appeal and spent hundreds of thousands only to be let free again.

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  4. Covering the peep hole was bizarre. How is someone supposed to identify whether it’s the police or a home invasion. Congrats on the judgment. Pivot does good work.

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