column was published in the
Jan. 13, 1999)
By Leo Knight
If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.
Twelfth Night - Act III Sc.4
Shakespeare was not considering the thought processes of British
Columbia judges when he penned those words some 450 years ago or
so. But they certainly seem appropriate when looking at the
written decision issued by Madame Justice Levine in the B.C.
Supreme Court last week.
case in question involves some Vietnamese dope dealers.
Crew," a collection of Vancouver Police Detectives and RCMP
investigators, developed information from a scuzzy little doper
concerning a "dial-a-dope" operation in East Vancouver
on Grandview Highway.
for the cops, as it turned out, this new snitch had been untried
doper was arrested with "decks" of heroin and cocaine.
The source said it was purchased from "Sonny" -- a
street name -- and a contact cell phone number and vehicle
description were provided.
resulting investigation turned up potential suspects, an address
(duplex) in East Van and two black Nissan Maximas at the suspect
address matching the description provided.
the problems the police have in using source information thanks
to a decade and a half of Charter decisions, the cops attempted
to buy dope from the suspects using undercover officers in a
"cold approach." No such luck.
order to get a search warrant for the house in question, the
cops had to conduct surveillance over several days to
corroborate the information provided by the original source.
this process, they observed the resident of the house get into
the same car described by the original source and drive to a
location where a female was picked up on a corner. The vehicle
drove around the block with the female and let her out at the
police arrested and searched the female and found, guess what? A
couple of "flaps" of cocaine and heroin.
a couple of well-placed questions, they determined she had
purchased the drugs from a Viet dealer named "Sonny"
who drove the black Nissan the cops had been following and, to
top it all off, she had phoned the same cell number as the
original source to arrange the dope delivery.
are you beginning to see a pattern here?
reasonable person might actually arrive at the conclusion that
someone at that house on Grandview Highway who goes by the
street name of "Sonny" sells cocaine and heroin in
split gram amounts and works off a specific cell phone.
investigation revealed an individual of Vietnamese origin living
at the specific house on Grandview Highway owned a black Nissan
and had a cell phone registered to him with -- are you ready --
the exact same phone number as both dopers gave police as the
contact number for the "dial-a-dope" operation.
the officers went to the Justice of the Peace to get the search
warrant, a couple of things occurred that would ultimately
result in Justice Levine tossing out the warrant and the fruits
of the search.
nuts and bolts of the decision revolved around two issues. The
first was because the warrant was issued to "the peace
officers of British Columbia," not the specific officers
who conducted the search.
issue here has to do with the old Narcotic Control Act and the
new Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Under the NCA, the
officers conducting the search had to be named in the warrant.
The new legislation has no such requirement. Despite this, the
judge ruled the warrant invalid because no officer was
judge also expressed concern about the method used by police to
enter the residence. Specifically, the police entered the house
forcibly, unannounced and with guns drawn.
stated she didn't care that this was standard operating
procedure and argued it was a violation of the rights of the
accused simply because there was no specific statutory authority
for the police to do this.
lest anyone think I believe the police should be able to forgo
the legal niceties when they execute a search warrant, let me
dispel that right now. The sanctity of a person's house is
paramount in a free society. In my view that is an absolute. So,
too, is an individual's right against unlawful search and
it seems to me that we as a society also need to be protected
against those who choose to live beyond the law.
police in this case investigated the information they received.
They conducted surveillance to corroborate the information. They
tried unsuccessfully to eliminate the need for source
information by making "buys" themselves. When this
didn't work out, they developed a second source totally
independent of the first.
they searched the house they found all the evidence supporting
the information and arrested and charged the people associated
with the house and the "dial-a-dope" operation.
Madame Justice Levine decided that none of this mattered. She
ordered the warrant invalid and all evidence seized by police
a result of the decision, the Crown must now consider dropping
all charges in cases where the police used a search warrant in
which no officer is named or in which a forcible entry was used.
They could, of course, appeal the Levine decision, but that is
expensive and time-consuming in a system already weighed down
with pedantic appeals.
all outstanding cases will now be dropped.
There doesn't seem to be much "justice" in this "system."