HELSTON: Suspects walk without charges in high profile cases—what's going on? | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon News

HELSTON: Suspects walk without charges in high profile cases—what's going on?

Charlotte Helston is a reporter with InfoNews.

Over the course of a week, police let the suspects in two separate, serious incidents walk without charges.

The first incident was a shooting in Polson Park Aug. 12. Police said multiple people were involved and several shots were fired. Later that day, one person was arrested in Vernon and three in Kelowna. The next day, police revealed the suspects had been released from custody without charges.

RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk said investigators continue to interview witnesses, collect evidence and assess whether charges may be laid in the future.

Days later, on Aug. 15, police raided a Vernon residence suspected of hiding a drug lab. Armed police scoured the property and discovered what appeared to be a meth lab. Two men and a woman in the house during the search were arrested, and later released without charges.

Police are guarding what details they have on both cases so as not to jeopardize the investigations leaving the community with nothing but blind trust that they’re on it. It's always like this but it's also unsettling knowing the people potentially behind both incidents are still on the streets.

In B.C., perhaps more than most provinces, charging someone with a criminal offence is often not an easy or quick process—just look at the charges still coming out of Vancouver Stanley Cup riot—from 2011. This province is also fairly unique because police don't actually lay criminal informations. They recommend charges to the trained criminal law lawyers of the B.C. Prosecution Service based on two factors. 1. Is there a substantial likelihood of prosecution based on the evidence gathered? 2. Is prosecution in the public interest.

There are no rash decisions and that's good for everybody. As a court reporter, I see firsthand what happens when police don’t have their ducks in a row. One slip up in the eyes of a judge—making an unlawful demand for a breath sample, being selective with information when applying for a search warrant, or violating a person’s rights—can cripple a case, and that’s a waste of time for the everyone; the courts and the investigators, let alone the accused who gets to to walk.

While police keep us in the dark about their follow ups on the Polson Park shooting and the alleged drug lab, we can only hope they are building strong, justified cases, ones that can win in court, provide justice and make our community safer.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

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