Regulatory boondoggle could hurt several drug lawsuits

Regulatory boondoggle could harm many drug lawsuits

Under the error, the police were unable to use certain investigative techniques, to avoid possible criminal liability.

Hundreds of drug cases currently before the courts from coast to coast could be affected by a mistake by the federal government when it updated the drug laws and legalized cannabis a few years ago, the CBC network has learned.

At the heart of the matter: the standards designed to protect police officers who must commit crimes as part of their undercover investigations. Exemptions were introduced in the late 1990s to protect these officers from prosecution when they have to take actions, such as buying drugs, to complete an investigation.

But when the Liberals amended the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in 2017 and then legalized cannabis in 2018, those provisions were not updated.

As a result, during the period from 2017 until very recently, undercover police officers were not legally protected from the legal consequences of certain actions they might have had to take in investigation.

In a notice published in the Canada Gazette on August 2, the government indicated that changes were needed because the error [could] jeopardize law enforcement operations and the successful prosecution of criminal offenses committed under such laws.

Due to missing exemptions, a number of criminal investigations involving Canadian citizens or Canadian businesses operating on Canadian soil could not be conducted by the RCMP, the briefing note further reads. /p>

Both the government and the police authorities play down the impact of this error and claim that it had no impact on investigations related to drugs and narcotics. Authorities also claim to be unaware that any ongoing trials have been affected by this story.

The Gazette notice, however, mentions that police investigations involved error may have occurred in the past, but none of this is pending, and no such investigation will be conducted in the absence of the regulatory change.

Drug-related investigations continue to be conducted, the official note further states.

However, members of the police force working undercover cannot provide anything in connection with the possession, production, sale or import of anything that can be used for the trafficking of controlled substances (encrypted telephones, cars with secret compartments, or a machine for making tablets) to take their investigations further, as this could lead to criminal liability, writes the government.

“There is currently nothing preventing the authorities from going to trial in drug cases. However, the quality of evidence that can be obtained is limited by the inability to use those additional tools that would allow the best evidence to be collected. »

— Excerpt from the government note

The new proposals put forward to correct the problem would also help Canadian police officers to work with their colleagues from other countries who are not subject to the same limitations.

The new version of the regulations is now in force.

According to lawyer Jack Lloyd, who specializes in drug-related cases, the federal government's error could complicate the process for Crown prosecutors and will likely be used by defense lawyers to convince their clients. get lesser sentences.

It's a pretty serious problem, so they will be pushed to resolve these cases in a way that all parties are happy, Me said. Lloyd.

“And that could involve not going to jail, not having a criminal record, things like that.

— Jack Lloyd, Drug Lawyer

For his part, Eugene Oscapella, a professor at the University of Ottawa and an expert on drug laws, argues that some defense lawyers may try to use the government's error to make drop some lawsuits.

I suspect some lawyers will try to plead abuse of rights. I don't believe they will succeed, the majority of the time. I believe the judges will simply order new trials, he said.

Rachel Huggins, deputy director of the Ontario Provincial Police and co-chair of the committee Drug Advisory Board of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, believes that the federal government's error will have a significant impact, since the investigative techniques affected by the boondoggle represent only x27;some of the methods available to the police.

Based on a text by Elizabeth Thompson, CBC News

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