Judge rules local OPP ignore rights

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a bill of rights entrenched in the Constitution of Canada. The Charter guarantees certain political rights to Canadian citizens and civil rights of everyone in Canada from the policies and actions of all areas and levels of government. It is designed to unify Canadians around a set of principles that embody those rights.

Judge rules local OPP ignore rights

Postby Thomas » Fri Jun 06, 2014 5:29 am

BRACEBRIDGE - A Toronto lawyer suggests that unlawful police searches are the norm in south Muskoka. Police, however, say a judge’s recent criticism refers to an isolated incident.

Earlier this year, attorney John Fitzmaurice was involved in a case before Justice J.C. Crawford in Bracebridge court where the judge excluded the evidence against his client because members of the Bracebridge OPP had obtained it through the warrantless search of a private property.

In that situation, the investigating officers drove their vehicle on a private driveway without a warrant or the property owner’s permission in order to take photos of marijuana plants located at the back of a neighbouring property.

According to the transcript of the ruling, Justice Crawford concluded the officer believed it was acceptable police practice to go onto private property in order to conduct a police search without first obtaining a warrant and that it was common practice by local officers to do so.

“The evidence of Det. Const. Randy Graham indicates an apparent blind spot in the police understanding of their right to enter property without consent, and without an authorizing reason such as an emergent situation or an implied licence,” Crawford said in court on Feb. 14. “There is a need for the court to disassociate itself from apparent common police practices which treat private-property rights in quite a loose fashion.”

According to Fitzmaurice, there was no effort made by the Crown to dispute Crawford’s finding that the local police force commonly enters property unlawfully.

“Often we hear that a particular officer isn’t familiar with their rights, but this is the first time in my 30 years (as a lawyer) that I have come across an officer saying not only is he doing it but so are his co-workers,” Fitzmaurice said in a phone interview from Toronto on Tuesday. “Is it some kind of constitutional free zone up there?

As per the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.”

Fitzmaurice said he hopes bringing the judge’s findings forward will help push for the practices of local police to be remedied.

Bracebridge OPP detachment commander Insp. Ed Medved said there is nothing to remedy.

“We’re not in the business of trampling over people’s Charter Rights,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “I know officer Graham to be highly competent and capable. This investigation was very fluid and unfolding quickly. The officers were acting in good faith.”

According to Medved, Graham’s statement that local officers often enter private property in this fashion is valid.

“He’s not incorrect in saying so. It is one of many investigative techniques used by police,” said Medved. “The assumption is that it’s not in relation to any particular target.”

Medved said the investigation being scrutinized is an isolated incident.

“I’m not aware of any trends,” he said. “This is one case of thousands that come through the doors at Dominion Street. The system has spoken and it is what it is.”

According to Medved if there were a trend he should be concerned with, the Crown would have contacted him.

“They are interested, as are we, in the administration of justice. If there was something amiss, they would be bringing it to my attention,” he said.

Fitzmaurice said he is confused by Medved’s comments.

“All due respect to the inspector, he’s saying exactly what you might expect,” said Fitzmaurice.

“But the judge didn’t find that this was an isolated incident. I have to think the inspector is not quite aware of what is going on,” he added.

http://www.muskokaregion.com/news-story ... re-rights/

http://www.durhamregion.com/news-story/ ... re-rights/

http://www.northumberlandnews.com/news- ... re-rights/
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Re: Judge rules local OPP ignore rights

Postby Gkuke » Mon Jun 16, 2014 6:49 pm

If this trial had taken place in the Peterborough courts, the ruling would have been much different.

According to the honorable Lisa Cameron it is totally acceptable for police to enter private property without a warrant and without permission so they can collect evidence. Guess it depends on the Judges competence, Lisa Cameron cannot even understand what is required to prove a simple cause disturbance charge. http://canlii.ca/t/g6kb5

Her honor Lisa Cameron, who acts as a judge in Peterborough and Lindsay, removed a couple of sentences from the transcript of her trial ruling. Those two removed sentences were the basis of the oral argument that was presented at the Court of Appeal for Ontario. So although Lisa Cameron tried to remove a ground of appeal from the transcript, it was still beneficial in showing that her ruling was miscarriage of justice.

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Re: Judge rules local OPP ignore rights

Postby DetectiveSgtGaga » Mon Jan 19, 2015 5:37 pm

People should be aware that police entering their private property without consent or a warrant are common citizens. Shoot em if you feel threatened.

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Bracebridge OPP make pages of Maclean's magazine

Postby Thomas » Sat Oct 22, 2016 11:34 am

Bracebridge OPP make pages of Maclean's magazine for trespassing liberties

BRACEBRIDGE — Bracebridge has made national news in a story titled Absolutely some trespassing in Maclean's magazine this week on a questionable practice of Bracebridge OPP.

News first appearing in the Bracebridge Examiner in July of this year, a story in the Oct. 31, 2016 edition, which was delivered to homes on Friday, Oct. 21, is a two-page spread on an upcoming legal challenge at the Ontario Superior Court. The court will hear arguments on whether "next-door neighbour searches" violate the rights of property owners.

The challenge dates back to a 2012 incident in Bracebridge, when a couple was arrested and charged with production and possession of marijuana. OPP took the liberty of walking on a neighbouring property without permission to see onto the suspect's property, and gather evidence in the way of photographs to obtain the search warrant that would provide the evidence for the couple's arrest.

Toronto defence lawyer John Fitzmaurice successfully defended the couple in February 2014, having the evidence thrown out, but he did not stop there, highlighting the Bracebridge OPP methods by taking the story to this newspaper, following the judge's decision in favour of his clients. Fitzmaurice was further prompted to bring the application to the Ontario Superior Court when Bracebridge Inspector Ed Medved confirmed in the resulting article that local officers often enter private property in this fashion, responding that “It is one of many investigative techniques used by police.” An excerpt from the Bracebridge Examiner article is quoted in Maclean's.

Watch for followup from the court case at muskokaregion.com in the weeks to come.

http://www.muskokaregion.com/news-story ... liberties/
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How much police trespassing is permissible?

Postby Thomas » Mon Oct 24, 2016 11:03 am

Police argue they can wander into your backyard without permission. A court will put that to a test.

The police had their evidence bagged and marked—two marijuana plants plucked from a backyard in Bracebridge, Ont., their location discernible only if one ventured alongside a garage near the back of a neighbouring lot. On Sept. 4, 2012, two Ontario Provincial Police officers did just that, creeping up the gravel driveway of the lot next door in their cruiser, photographing the pot with a smartphone while gathering “observations” they’d later use to obtain a search warrant. Seizures and arrests would follow—a young couple leasing the property where the cannabis grew was charged with production and possession of marijuana. But when the case went to trial, it hit a wall: the officers, it turned out, had neither permission nor a warrant to be prowling around the property next door.

So the plants were tossed from evidence, and both accused were acquitted, leaving everyone on the defendants’ side of the courtroom wondering what the investigating officers had been thinking. One of them, Det.-Const. Randy Graham, admitted in testimony that observing objects and activity from adjacent land, sans permission, was something he and his OPP colleagues did on a routine basis.

His nonchalance on the point drew rebuke from provincial court Justice J.C. Crawford, who warned in his decision of an “apparent blind spot in the police understanding of their right to enter property without consent.” But for Bracebridgians who assumed their privacy rights held no matter how suspect their neighbours, it raised a more basic question: Who led the officers to think it was okay?

Their boss, perhaps. After the decision came down, Insp. Edward Medved, the commander of the Bracebridge OPP detachment, publicly backed Graham, describing trespassing as “one of many investigative techniques used by police,” and suggesting there was nothing wrong with it. “If there was something amiss,” he told the Bracebridge Examiner, the Crown “would bring it to my attention.” Flying as they did in the face of Crawford’s interpretation, Medved’s statements read like a challenge. The authority of the courts might prevail on paper, he seemed to be saying, but in the complex and often confusing sphere of real-world policing, officers need some licence to do their jobs.

Whichever view prevails, legal experts want some clarity, post-haste. Next month, Ontario Superior Court will hear the first arguments in an unorthodox plea to have Medved slapped down, through a declaration that so-called “next-door neighbour searches” violate the right of occupants to be secure from unreasonable police intrusion.

Neither the Crown nor the police can provide legal grounds for the practice, says John Fitzmaurice, the Toronto lawyer who filed the application, and who defended the accused couple in the Bracebridge case: “People have a reasonable expectation of privacy on their land. If you’re going to invade that privacy, you’d better get a judge to authorize it.”

Turning a blind eye, he adds, could produce an absurd scenario where people suspected of criminal activity—in which case police would definitely need a warrant—enjoy a greater expectation of privacy than their law-abiding neighbours. And he’s not the only one with qualms. The Ontario chapter of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association (CLA) has asked to intervene in the case, saying it raises a “critical and novel issue” of a citizen’s right to challenge unconstitutional state action. “The fundamental question is about police power,” says Philip Campbell, a lawyer representing CLA pro bono. “That’s always a critical thing to define in a free society.”

It’s a case sure to attract attention of police officers, many of whom assume law-abiding neighbours would tolerate cases of minor encroachment in the rare event they heard about them. Typically, police are able to find an occupant, flash a badge and freely peak across the fence, says Fred Iannuccilli, a retired Toronto police officer who obtained scores of warrants during his 36-year career. When no one’s around, he says, they proceed on a variation of an old legal principle known as “colour of right”—the idea that a person acting with an honest belief that circumstances require his actions can justify what he’s done. “You actually get taught this in police college,” says Iannuccilli, now a private investigator. “You have the belief that you’re not doing anything wrong.”

But Medved’s assertion has left others in law enforcement scratching their heads. Any venture onto property aimed at building a criminal case must be backed by a warrant, says Alex Fishbein, a former Halton Regional Police officer who worked in fraud, cybercrime and organized units. “Even if you have permission from the owner, you might be circumventing the judicial process.” In the Bracebridge case, he adds, the officers could have obtained a so-called “general warrant,” which would allow them to walk around buildings on a property looking for information that could later support a full search warrant. Doing so from the neighbour’s place without consent, says Fishbein, “is not common practice.”

Still, it seems strange that opinions are divided some three decades after the Supreme Court issued its first decisions on search and seizure in the post-Charter era. Were it not for the unique circumstances of the Bracebridge investigation, it might have lain fallow much longer. Graham and his partner had the misfortune to be treading on a lot owned by the father of one of the accused, who was renting the home out and testified at trial that he would have denied the OPP entry if he had been asked. Richard Thompson, 57, told Maclean’s last week that he regarded the police pursuit of his daughter, Lisa, and her common-law husband, Cody Murphy, as petty, and was stunned to learn the officers had been on the neighbouring property he owns. “If I was coming to your place, I couldn’t just start searching around,” he says. “You wouldn’t like that.”

Fitzmaurice, however, is quick to acknowledge the law’s near silence on that point—it’s one of the reasons he’s going to court. Legislation offers exceptions to the warrant requirement in “exigent circumstances,” such as when someone is in physical danger, he notes. But almost all of the search-and-seizure cases that have gone through the courts to date deal with the rights of suspects and not their neighbours. So even though Fitzmaurice’s application deals strictly with the conduct of the OPP in the District of Muskoka, he believes it raises concerns for all Canadians. Trespass laws in most provinces prohibit entry onto premises with such indicators of habitation as fences, lawns, gardens and trees. (In Ontario, breaking them is punishable by up to $10,000 in fines.) Are we content to let police bend them, as long as they’re investigating crimes? Where, if anywhere, should we expect them to draw the line? At the edge of our lawns? At the thresholds of our homes?

Fraught questions, all, which the OPP and the Ontario attorney general’s ministry are disinclined to address. Success for Fitzmaurice, after all, could add another degree of complication to the burdensome task of busting bad guys, yet no government is about to go on the record in favour of cops wandering backyards without warrant or permission. For now, provincial lawyers are trying to short-circuit the case, arguing Fitzmaurice lacks the factual foundation to bring this question to court. Medved referred questions to OPP headquarters in Orillia, where a spokesman declined to comment because the case is before the courts.

Fitzmaurice, meanwhile, is getting some cost-efficient help. The Innocence Project, a program to help the wrongfully convicted at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, has been recruited to argue the case, with its director, the well-known constitutional lawyer Alan Young, working pro bono.

If Fitzmaurice gets past the first set of legal hurdles, he can certainly count on the testimony of one angry property owner. Since his daughter and her boyfriend were charged, Richard Thompson has been doing a slow burn, convinced that local police have too long considered themselves above laws that everyone else must obey. “We’re given rights for certain reasons, and the right to privacy has been getting trampled,” he says flatly. “Nobody I know wants the police running around their yard and doing whatever they please.”

http://www.macleans.ca/news/how-much-po ... rmissible/
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