Police Break Search Rules In Grow-Op Trial

Pot-growing charges against a Toronto man were tossed out this week after an Ontario court judge found police inserted “cut and paste …fluff” and used a stereotype about Asian people in order to obtain a search warrant.

In his written ruling, Judge William Bassel said given the “boiler plate” information used by police that had “no connection to the investigation in question,” he had no choice but to exclude the evidence of 600 marijuana plants found on Dec. 11, 2006 in the west-end house at 26 Poynter Dr.

“There was no urgency in obtaining the warrant and the steps taken suggests an almost rubber stamp,” he wrote in the 26-page ruling.

“A search warrant’s reach is so serious and so intrusive that there is an objective that must be met, and if that objective is not sought and recognized by the police, the very rationale and heart of the protection of Section 8 will be relegated to the dustbin.”

Section 8 of the Charter Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides everyone in Canada with protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

All drug-related charges against Tien Van Nguyen were withdrawn after the ruling.

Defence lawyer Kim Schofield challenged the constitutional validity of the warrant, which was issued after her client was arrested and his house searched. “People would be shocked if they knew the ease at which the police can obtain a search warrant to enter a private residence,” Schofield said yesterday.

Bassel noted police became interested in the dwelling after an anonymous tipster advised, that the “front yard is looked after enough to avoid suspicion” and “two years ago Asian people bought the house.”

The police also cited hydro records showing the average consumption for the preceding five months was 80.566 kWH, compared to the average 38 and 39 kWH used in neighbouring homes.

The judge questioned the reference to Asians: “What possible relevance can the fact that the supposed owners are Asians have, other than to subtly mark this fact as an improper stereotypical message …that here goes again yet another Asian grow operation?”

– Article from The Toronto Star on January 17, 2009.