Prosecutors appeal police informer ruling
Charges against accused drug dealer dropped due to lack of disclosure
B.C. and federal prosecutors are appealing a ruling to stay the charges against an accused cocaine dealer over a failure to disclose details of intelligence provided by a police informer.
Cameron McKay was charged in 2013 with possession for the purpose of trafficking after Victoria police seized a kilogram of cocaine and drug paraphernalia from his Esquimalt home.
At his trial last year, McKay challenged whether police had sufficient grounds to get a search warrant for his residence.
His lawyer “sought disclosure of intelligence provided by two police informers in the form of source handler notes and source debriefing reports,” B.C. Court of Appeal Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein said in her ruling.
“The Crown disclosed a single source debriefing report, but asserted that the remaining source debriefing reports and source handler notes were not relevant and were protected by informer privilege.”
The trial judge ordered more disclosure, but the federal prosecutor refused, leading to the charge against McKay being dropped.
The federal Crown filed an appeal, which is expected to be heard in June.
“The issue raised in the appeal is whether, and in what circumstances, an accused person is entitled to access raw intelligence provided by police informers,” StrombergStein said.
The B.C. attorney general went to court to get intervener status, since the issue of informer privilege has arisen in several major gang prosecutions, including the Surrey Six murder case.
In a ruling released Monday, Stromberg-Stein granted B.C. prosecutors status in the appeal.
“The attorney general says that it has prosecuted a number of mega-cases involving murders and murder conspiracies arising out of rivalries between criminal gangs. A significant issue in these cases has been the disclosure of information relating to confidential informers,” Stromberg-Stein said.
“The attorney general’s argument will go further than that of the federal Crown. It will argue that all information provided by a confidential informer, in whatever form, is presumptively privileged and must not be disclosed absent a finding of innocence at stake. It will argue that attempting to edit a privileged document involves an incalculable risk of identifying the informer.”
In B.C ., federal prosecutors oversee all drug cases, while the provincial Crown prosecutes murder cases and other Criminal Code offences.
Stromberg-Stein said the B.C. government’s involvement in the appeal “will not be unfair or create an appearance of unfairness to the accused.”
“The attorney general has a direct interest in the appeal and can provide a useful and different perspective on the issues before the court,” she said.
The issue raised in the appeal is whether, and in what circumstances, an accused person is entitled to access raw intelligence provided by police informers.