One Canadian may have enjoyed Canada Day more than most—a judgement was delivered in New Westminster courts on June 30th acquitting a BC man accused of production of marijuana, possession for the purpose of trafficking marijuana, and theft of electricity.
On the morning of February 20, 2013, an RCMP investigation came to a head as a steel ram forced open the door to Raafat Badr’s home in Surrey, BC, with a team of investigators in tow. Inside the house they found an unlicensed 237-plant cannabis farm downstairs, and a living space upstairs with a number of Mr. Badr’s personal documents. What they didn’t find, according to the judge who presided over the case, was evidence that Badr had any involvement in—or even knowledge of—the illegal activities in the basement of the house.
At the time of the investigation Mr. Badr was away from the house. In response to a message left by the RCMP after the search warrant was executed, Mr. Badr voluntarily attended the Surrey detachment office for an interview, during which he admitted he lived at the address in question. But living there, ruled the judge, does not imply involvement.
The most serious of the charges, theft of electricity, was also the charge with the easiest verdict for the judge to render.
“It took an expert to locate the bypass,” wrote the judge in his report. “No consumer reading the hydro bill would see anything abnormal,” he added, waxing tongue-in-cheek, “that’s the whole purpose of the bypass.”
With no evidence suggesting Mr. Badr was aware of the bypass on the BC Hydro meter, the accused was found not guilty of the charge.
The remaining charges and respective rulings got a little stickier.
The Crown’s submission was that because Mr. Badr lived in the house it must follow that he knew of the existence of the unlicensed cannabis farm. Whether personally “looking after” the farm or aiding and abetting to maintain an environment in which the crime can be committed, the Crown argued that either way Mr. Badr’s living at the address implied culpability.
The judge found otherwise, basing his decision on a number of factors, first of which was that the existence of the rear exterior door leading to the basement farm meant that a caretaker could come and go without ever entering by the front door. Another factor was that the Crown presented no evidence that Badr had ever been in the basement of the house, or that he had even lived at that address for long enough to have set up the farm, which was mere days away from harvest when the search warrant was executed.
Adding to the reasonable doubt, the landlord of the house was subpoenaed to attend the trial, but did not appear in court or respond with any reason for his absence. In his report, the judge stated that a possible inference is the landlord may have had guilty knowledge of the farm which pre-dated the defendant residing at the address.