Warrants still being faxed
By Monisha Martins
Ridge Meadows RCMP continue to fax search warrant applications for
approval by a judicial justice of the peace to Burnaby despite a
provincial court ruling last month that the practice is unlawful.
Judge Ellen Gordon said the Criminal Code requires police officers to
personally appear in front of a judge or justice of the peace to
explain their application unless there is no other practical way to
obtain a warrant except by using a fax.
Gordon's comments were made during a trial that saw an accused
marijuana grower acquitted after an RCMP officer obtained a search
warrant by fax.
Members of the Ridge Meadows RCMP crime reduction team said they fax
warrant applications to the Justice Centre in Burnaby only if no
justice of the peace or judge is available at Port Coquitlam Provincial Court.
The October ruling has not led to change in practices, said RCMP
Staff Sgt. A.J. Bodden.
"We haven't had any feedback from the courts to say what we are doing
is entirely wrong," he added. "That was a provincial court decision,
so they are not generally as binding as what a higher court may be.
We are waiting on policy decisions to come down the line."
Two recent raids by the drug section in Maple Ridge were the results
of warrants being faxed for approval to JPs in Burnaby.
In September, Cst. Melvin Wong was forced to fax an application to
search Eighteen Carrot Farms after his calls to the judges' chambers
in Port Coquitlam were answered by voice mail.
"At this time I am unable to access the services of a Provincial
Court judge or judicial justice of the peace in person," he wrote in
a search warrant application obtained by The News. "In addition, it
is impractical to drive to the Justice Centre in Burnaby, as a round
trip ...would require a minimum of three hours."
The search warrant was faxed and lead police to the largest marijuana
grow operation found in Maple Ridge.
Police hauled 6,800 plants and 86.5 pounds of dried marijuana from a
large barn on the Cedar Way property. The seizure is estimated to be
worth $10 million on the street.
Ridge Meadows RCMP also raided a house on Kanaka Way in October after
applying for a search warrant in the same way.
Police allege a dial-a-dope operation was being run out of the home,
just six houses away from Kanaka Creek Elementary School.
A quantity of crack cocaine, estimated at $25,000, drug paraphernalia
and firearms were seized by police from the home.
No one has been charged in connection with either of the files.
Bodden said officers routinely check if a judge or justice of the
peace is available in Port Coquitlam before they fax warrants.
"But a vast majority of the time they are just to busy to deal with
it," he added. "We haven't had a problem with that yet. So we are not
going to change this practice without direction from our division's
There is only one judicial justice of peace who has the authority to
issue search warrants based at the Port Coquitlam court.
Maple Ridge News (CN BC)