A Corner Brook judge doesn't dispute that drugs were found inside a car pulled over by police nearly four years ago, but she dropped the charges against two men accused of trafficking anyway. Two men from Quebec were acquitted on Monday after a Corner Brook judge ruled traffic police showed a complete disregard for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Sylvain Charbonneau and Jean Dessailliers were pulled over on the highway near Corner Brook by the RCMP in 2011, after the officers thought the men looked "lost." Police searched the vehicle and found approximately 26 kilograms of marijuana and one kilogram of hash. The police charged them with drug trafficking.
Defence lawyer Robby Ash said when the police learned the two men weren't lost, they still didn't let them go. Instead they used a police dog to search their vehicle.
"We determined that there was some significant violations of both of their rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, so we immediate took steps to file the application to seek the exclusion of the evidence in this case," Ash said Monday.
'Shocking' violation of rights
Last month, Justice Laura Mennie agreed that Charbonneau and Dessailliers had their rights violated when they were stopped, and when the police searched the vehicle. She excluded evidence from the traffic stop that led to the charges against the men. In her 26-page decision, Mennie called the Charter violation "extremely serious" and called the officers' lack of regard of their rights "shocking."
Mennie also noted that this court decision isn't the first time the RCMP's roving traffic unit has been criticized, including the conduct of the two officers who made the arrest and conducted the search of the vehicle.
"We weren't just looking at one little slip up which resulted in a minor breach of the Charter on a failure to advise the right to council or something like that, this was a cascade of Charter violations," Ash said.
Without the drugs, the Crown had no other evidence.
Mennie agreed with Ash and acquitted the two men on Monday morning.
CBC News.ca/Jan. 12, 2015
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