Article by Jacques Gallant, Toronto Star
Another unlawful strip search, another crumbling criminal case.
A Toronto judge has thrown out all drug evidence seized from Stuart MacPherson, finding Toronto police had no reasonable grounds to pull back his pants and boxer shorts at the scene of his arrest to locate concealed drugs near his tail bone.
Ontario Court Justice Sheila Ray also noted in her ruling released last week that at least one of the officers did not seem to even be aware that there was a Toronto police policy on strip searches, and that both officers thought what they did was entirely appropriate.
“The officers were ignorant of the law,” the judge wrote. “They thought that exigent circumstances justified what they did, and that what they did was not a strip search. They were wrong, and this should not have happened.”
The judge excluded the drug evidence, finding MacPherson’s charter right to unreasonable search and seizure had been violated.
Strip-searching is “inherently humiliating and degrading,” the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in a landmark case 17 years ago known as R v. Golden, and should only be done when there are reasonable grounds, such as looking for weapons or evidence related to the arrest.
A person should also not be strip-searched outside of a police station unless there are exceptional circumstances, Ray said.
It’s the latest case of a criminal matter put in jeopardy because police failed to follow the case law and their own policies on strip-searching. Toronto police, in particular, have faced repeated criticism on the issue, as other court cases have also shown that officers are not always aware of the various types of strip searches and when and how they can be conducted.“It is disheartening to learn that Toronto’s front line officers are still not aware of legal precedents and internal policies governing the limits on strip searches that have been in place for well over a decade,” said criminal defence lawyer Daniel Brown, who was not involved in the case.