Strip search il­le­gal; drug charges tossed

The Welland Tribune - - Local - ALI­SON LAN­G­LEY

Drug charges were dis­missed against two men af­ter a lo­cal judge ruled Ni­a­gara Re­gional Po­lice vi­o­lated their rights when they were sub­jected to a strip search.

Den­mare Gal­limore, 20, of Mississauga, and Al­ton John­ston, 23, of Bramp­ton, were ar­rested in Jan­uary 2016 af­ter po­lice launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into an individual sus­pected of drug traf­fick­ing both on foot and from a Cadil­lac near an ele­men­tary school and high school in St. Catharines.

Po­lice ar­rested four men, in­clud­ing the two de­fen­dants, in a ve­hi­cle the fol­low­ing month. Through the course of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, po­lice seized $17,300 worth of crack co­caine, heroin, Oxy­codone and $7,350 in cash.

In On­tario Court of Jus­tice in St. Catharines Wed­nes­day, Judge Fer­gus O’Don­nell ruled the strip search was a clear breach of the de­fen­dants’ rights.

A Supreme Court de­ci­sion made 15 years ago pro­tects Cana­di­ans from strip searches if po­lice do not have rea­son­able grounds to do so as it is a sig­nif­i­cant in­va­sion of pri­vacy.

O’Don­nell said it ap­pears Ni­a­gara po­lice were not fa­mil­iar with the rules as it per­tains to a strip search.

“In the se­ri­ous­ness of char­ter vi­o­la­tions, this ranks very high,” the judge said. “To be blunt, in this in­ci­dent, the Ni­a­gara Re­gional Po­lice ex­isted in a time warp.”

He said a num­ber of po­lice of­fi­cers were pre­sent dur­ing the strip search and the search was ac­ces­si­ble to other po­lice via video feed. As a re­sult of the vi­o­la­tion un­der the Cana­dian Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms, the judge ruled any ev­i­dence seized from the de­fen­dants would be ex­cluded from trial.

“With­out that ev­i­dence, the Crown has no case so the charges are dis­missed,” O’Don­nell said.

The judge also noted the “abysmal record keep­ing,” by po­lice re­lat­ing to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. He said the “wide­spread fail­ure” to doc­u­ment events was prob­lem­atic.

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