KAMLOOPS - After RCMP raided a Kamloops trailer filled with guns and ammunition in December 2013, they displayed their haul at the RCMP detachment where the city’s top cop posed for pictures and told reporters about the dangers of illegal firearms.
They got multiple weapons including shotguns and chopped up, rebuilt long guns, ammunition, drugs and a number of suspected stolen items off the street — but that was all they got. The man they arrested and charged walked away after a Kamloops judge excoriated investigators for sloppy paperwork, multiple rights violations and failure to adhere or even understand well-established case law that defines search and seizure.
The accused, Charles Patrick, was acquitted just a few weeks ago, but we didn't know why until the decision by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Hope Hyslop became available this week. A judge may find the public interest in major crimes outweighs minor charter breaches, but Hyslop ruled the failure was so complete, she agreed with his lawyer, Ken Tessovitch that the case against Patrick couldn't survive.
“I am aware that firearms are involved and this is a serious concern for society," she wrote. "However, the conduct of the police seriously undermined Mr. Patrick’s Charter rights. This court must disassociate itself from this behaviour."
She ruled that officers didn’t follow the law when they searched Patrick, failed their obligations again when they detained him and he sought counsel, used unreliable information and sloppy paperwork to obtain a warrant to search his home, then left a key part of the warrant in a photocopier at the detachment and didn’t even bother retrieving it.
The investigation didn't have the benefit of any planning. By some luck on Dec. 11, 2013 around 4 a.m., Cpl. Kelly Butler stopped a vehicle suspected of being fraudulently registered. Hyslop ruled the RCMP had no reason to suspect, search or question Patrick, the driver, for anything else but they did. Patrick divulged he was carrying a shotgun and that led to a further search where more weapons were found, though all was inadmissable in court. When he was arrested, Patrick demanded to speak to a lawyer. Officers on scene waited until they took him to the detachment before letting him speak to a lawyer, which Hyslop says is a clear violation of charter rights well established since 2004.
"Corporal Butler believed that she had to provide Mr. Patrick the right to counsel 'as soon as practicable'. That is not the law,” Hyslop said. "The law is that an accused is entitled to consult with counsel 'without delay after they [are] arrested.'”
Once he was in custody, police got to work on his home, a trailer in Westsyde. They set up surveillance while they established grounds to obtain a search warrant — the source of Hyslop’s greatest concerns. She pointed out several inconsistencies and errors in the paperwork, written by an officer only identified as Const. Baker and approved by a justice. Hyslop went on for pages about inaccuracies, missing details including an actual address, use of second-hand information, inconsistent information and just plain wrong information from police files, police informants and the investigating officers themselves.
The officer who wrote the paperwork even recognized the information was wrong, she said.
"During their surveillance, the police recognized (their informant) was neither reliable nor credible. They realized that (the informant) had identified the wrong trailer. No explanation was given as to why the surveillance was directed at (the trailer they raided),” she wrote. "This misled the (justice who issued the search warrant) and the police had to know this.”
"It was carelessly drafted, confusing, and contradictory. The police decided (which) trailer that was to be the subject matter of the search warrant. It was not (the police informant)."
The confusing information identified an entirely different trailer, later discovered to be owned and occupied by an elderly couple with no criminal record.
They used a “hard entry” to the trailer using a battering ram. Once inside Patrick’s trailer — later confirmed to be his by family photos on the walls — they searched the place and removed evidence. They left the warrant behind but missing a key portion that Baker left unsigned in the photocopier at the detachment.
"The (information to obtain) on which the warrant was based was contradictory, error ridden, and at times incomprehensible. A large part of it was based on unreliable informant information. This warrant was used to enter a residence, where Mr. Patrick’s expectations of privacy were high,” Hyslop said. "The infringement of Mr. Patrick’s Charter rights was serious. Failure to have a warrant when entering Mr. Patrick’s residence is also serious. A warrant serves to inform a home owner as to the authority of the police and what they are searching for.”
"Constable Baker was careless when he left (the second page) on the photocopier. He ignored (its) importance… and acknowledged that it could have been easily obtained before entry into (the trailer) or early into the search. This is also a serious breach."
Attempts to reach Supt. Brad Mueller for comment were unsuccessful.
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