Strip search illegal; drug charges tossed
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.