Judge throws out drug trafficking, gun evidence over rights violation by Halifax police
A judge has thrown out drugs and weapons evidence in a case against a Halifax woman, saying police breached her charter rights and that to do otherwise would “bring the administration of justice into disrepute.”
Tavia Patrice Connolly was arrested by an RCMP-Halifax Police integrated drug unit in the parking lot of her Kearney Lake Road apartment for possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking on May 18, 2015.
According to the facts of the case, police had been acting on confidential source information that the address was being used as a “stash house.”
A police search of Connolly’s car turned up small quantities of marijuana, ecstasy and digital scales, while a search of her apartment found large amounts of drugs including marijuana, crack cocaine, hashish and heroin, along with four handguns and ammunition.
In a decision released Monday, Justice Kevin Coady says he is unwilling to admit evidence from the apartment because police, who entered without a warrant, were acting on speculation and violated Connolly’s charter rights in doing so.
The evidence shows police did not have a search warrant until 12:50 a.m. the next day.
“In conducting a warrantless exigent search the police must hold a subjective belief that immediate action is required and that belief is objectively reasonable,” wrote Coady.
“I conclude the evidence does not disclose any exigent circumstances that would justify … warrantless entry into Ms. Connolly’s home. All concerns were speculative. There was no urgency. Other options were available.”
The Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge said police also violated Connolly’s constitutional right to counsel by not providing her with the opportunity to contact her lawyer for 15-and-a-half hours after her arrest.
Coady noted that Connolly had immediately indicated she wanted to speak to a lawyer upon her arrest.
According to the evidence, Connolly arrived at police booking at 8 p.m. and remained there for 45 minutes without being offered a phone. Her right to that call was subsequently suspended by the watch commander until 10:35 a.m. on May 9, when she was permitted to use a phone.
Coady said the onus is on the Crown to establish that the lengthy delay was reasonable in the circumstances.
“The essence of the Crown’s position is that police were concerned that Ms. Connolly, or her counsel, might tip off someone about other arrests or searches that were going on at the time of Ms. Connolly’s detention. I do not find the evidence supportive of the Crown’s position.”
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Coady concluded Connolly was not afforded access to counsel “at the first reasonably available opportunity.”
The judge ultimately found that although police were within their rights to search Connolly’s car, the evidence found there is also inadmissible because of the two “serious breaches” of her charter rights.
“The breaches in Ms. Connolly’s case are neither fleeting nor technical,” Coady said. “On the evidence I find they are profoundly serious and deliberate.”
As a result, Coady said the questioned remained as to what if any remedy was available to Connolly.
“The only relief available would be to rule inadmissible the small amount of drugs found in her vehicle,” said Coady.
There’s no word yet on whether the case will move on to trial.
© 2019 The Canadian Press