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Strip search leads to dial-a-dope conviction

February 19, 2013 - 3:28 PM

Update 12:29 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20

By Jessica Wallace

Tammy Van Buskirk was found guilty today for her part in a dial-a-dope operation dating back to 2011.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Meiklem said the primary element of the case not proven was the actual possession of the drugs by Van Buskirk who was arrested on charges of possession for the purpose of trafficking related to an undercover bust on May 12, 2011.

Testimony by RCMP Const. Cheryl Duggan, who performed a strip search on the Van Buskirk, revealed she found a .29 gram rock of crack cocaine on the floor near the accused during the search.

After losing an application to have the evidence dismissed on constitutional grounds, defense lawyer Kevin Walker argued the drugs may have been carried into the room through Duggan's shoes or been there prior to the search.

Walker also denounced the witnesses credibility, arguing she recounted the search poorly compared to a surveillance video. But Meiklem sided with the Crown.

A testimony describing diligent cell cleaning procedures left him convinced it was not there before.

"She clearly did not see the package fall from any clothing, but it was a small package and that doesn't surprise me," he said. "I have no doubt whatsoever that Van Buskirk is guilty as charged."

While these charges conclude, Van Buskirk won't go too far from the courthouse. She faces more drug-related charges this week. Sentencing for this case has been put on hold until the subsequent charges are dealt with.

To contact the reporter for this story, email: jwallace@infotelnews.ca (250) 319-7494.

Update 6:53 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19

By Jessica Wallace

A Kamloops judge dismissed a constitutional challenge to a strip search today, leaving a woman to await her verdict on drug dealing charges.

Tammy Van Buskirk stood trial today in B.C. Supreme Court on charges of possession for the purpose of trafficking after she was busted by undercover narcotics officers on May 12, 2011.

During the bust, she was searched and no drugs or drug paraphernalia were found on Van Buskirk or the two people with her at the time. All three were then taken to the RCMP detachment where they were read their rights and further searched.

Court heard today that Const. Cheryl Duggan performed a strip search revealing .29 grams of crack cocaine. Defense lawyer Kevin Walker argued that the non-routine search was performed before the accused was able to speak with her lawyer. The defense made an application to have evidence seized during the search to be dismissed over violations to his client's rights.

Justice Ian Meiklem sided with the Crown, saying that counsel may not be accessible until a search or arrest is completed.

"The law, I think, is pretty clear," Meiklem said.

With Meiklem's ruling, the evidence obtained during the search remains admissible.

Following the decision, the Crown continued Van Buskirk's prosecution with another RCMP officer called to the witness stand.

Const. Ben Robinson testified that the red LG cell phone found in the truck that Van Buskirk drove during the bust rang multiple times while in police custody. On two separate occasions, people called looking for drugs.

Corp. Chris Bannerholt was also called to the stand as an expert in narcotics. He assessed the notebook found in the vehicle as a drug dealer accounting tool.

"This is a score sheet," he said.

He also said the quantity of crack cocaine found during Van Buskirk's strip search was typical of a dial-a-dope drug dealer.

"It's quite common for a dial-a-dope trafficker to carry a small quantity," he said.

The trial continues tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.

Update 3:23 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19

A strip search in an otherwise routine drug prosecution is being challenged as unconstitutional in a B.C. Supreme Court case today.

Tammy Van Buskirk stands trial in B.C. Supreme Court on charges of possession with the purpose of trafficking. She was arrested after undercover narcotics officers arranged a small buy of crack cocaine from her on May 12, 2011.

RCMP Const. Brian Lamb told Justice Ian Meiklen that he made arrangements with a woman over the phone to purchase $40 worth of crack cocaine. He stood in front of the Memorial Arena on Victoria Street before a grey truck arrived at about 11:17 p.m. to meet him and they verbally confirmed the deal.

"At that point, a gesture was made to my cover team," Lamb said, and they arrested three people in the truck.

On the initial search, no drugs or drug paraphernalia were found on Van Buskirk, another woman or the male driver of the truck or in the vehicle. A red LG cell phone and notebook including names, locations, phone numbers and various details were found on the truck seat near where Van Buskirk was seated.

All three were taken to the RCMP detachment where they were read their rights and further searched. A strip search of Van Buskirk found .29 grams of crack cocaine, and that's where the difficulties begin.

Court heard today that Const. Cheryl Duggan performed the strip search before the accused was able to speak with her lawyer. The defense wants evidence seized during the search to be nullified due over violations to his client's rights.

The case is expected to conclude this afternoon.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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