Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - a primer for the RCMP!

RCMP Charter violations prompt judge to toss evidence in drug probe
By Douglas Quan, Postmedia News
July 30, 2011

A British Columbia judge has tossed out all evidence seized in a massive Richmond based ecstasy-production investigation after finding that RCMP officers "ignored" the Charter rights of five suspects to such a degree that "one might have thought that the investigation took place before the Charter of Rights had been enacted."

In a 34-page ruling, the judge took officers to task for hosing down two half-naked suspects outside their home in the cold, failing to bring in interpreters to read suspects their rights, failing to allow suspects to read warrants and not filing court documents in a timely manner.

"The officers in charge just did not seem to care," B.C. Provincial Court Judge Paul R. Meyers wrote.

"I find that the cumulative violations in this case lead to the conclusion that the officers in charge of this investigation operated throughout in 'bad faith.'"

The scathing judgment, dated June 21 and posted online this week, came after more than two dozen hearings carried out over two years.

A spokeswoman for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, which handles drug-related cases, said the decision will not be appealed.

Over 14 months, RCMP drug investigators had multiple locations in Richmond under surveillance.

Police learned that ecstasy tablets were being produced, packed into foil bags marked "Chinese tea" and then shipped to Toronto and elsewhere - an operation that a police expert later testified was capable of producing $10-million worth of pills.

In January 2007, police watched as two men discarded two large plastic garbage bags into a dumpster. Believing the suspects had clued in that police were watching them and were now dismantling their production plant, officers decided to move in and arrest the suspects.

The missteps by police, according to the judge, began immediately.

Even though police had a "pretty good idea" that some of the suspects had limited English skills, police "basically just closed their eyes to this real, potential problem" and did nothing in advance to plan for it, such as having warrants translated into Chinese or bringing in Chinese interpreters, the judge said.

In at least one instance, a suspect answered "no" when asked by the arresting officer whether he understood his rights after they were read to him.

At one home, two occupants were forced to lie handcuffed on the front lawn on their stomachs: One was wearing only boxers, the other was wearing boxers and a T-shirt.

Because police believed the men had been exposed to toxic chemicals, they called in a fire crew to decontaminate the men by spraying their bodies with cold water.

"It is not an insignificant thing to force someone to stand or sit, halfnaked, while being hosed down in front of their neighbours, in the middle of the day and in the middle of winter," the judge said.

"This humiliation so easily could have been avoided" if police brought in portable privacy screens.


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