Court Denies Withdrawal of Evidence

The Honourable Mr. Justice Donald Lee recently released his judgement for the case of R v Agengo, 2011 ABQB 171, where the accused brought an application to the court to have evidence against him withdrawn pursuant to s.24(2) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, after being charged with six counts of weapon offences. The applicant, Agengo, argued that the evidence against him that he wanted withdrawn was based on a violation of his rights protected by ss. 8, 9 and 10(b) of the Charter.

The story is as follows: On May 13, 2008, after a civilian complaint, the Edmonton Police Service arrived at a vehicle containing three men who were reportedly threatening the complainant with a baseball bat. After the men had exited the vehicle at the request of the police, one of the officers had visually observed the end butt of a handgun under the front passenger seat, which was previously occupied by Agengo. The three men were then arrested and read their rights.

At the detachment, Agengo was interviewed and he admitted that he owned the handgun and was intending to sell it for profit.

Agengo later argued in court that the interview (which was tapped) and the handgun should be excluded from the evidence as the incident was not in the context of investigative detention, but that it was rather a simple civilian arrest.  The Crown argued that this incident was in fact in the context of an investigative detention and therefore the evidence was permissible. Justice Lee agreed with the Crown and the application was dismissed.

Click here to read the full judgement.

Op-Ed: Violation of Privacy – Justifiable in the name of Public Interest?

When is it justifiable for the state to infringe on someone’s privacy? This can be considered a key issue when analyzing the recent judgment written by the Honourable Madam Justice A.B. Moen in the case of Alberta (Director of Law Enforcement) v Ferguson, 2011 ABQB 13. After considering the facts in this case, it becomes important to discuss privacy issues and the limits applied to our constitutional right not to be subject to unreasonable search and seizure. More specifically, one must consider the purposes of state intrusion and how it affects the public interest. Before examining these issues, I will attempt to summarize the case and judgment below.

FACTS
The Respondent, David Lloyd Ferguson, resided in an apartment-style condominium in Red Deer, Alberta with his wife, Elaine Ferguson. Other residents who lived in the same building had filed numerous complaints starting in September 2007 to the Director of Law Enforcement, stating that they believed that the property being occupied by the Respondent was used for the selling and consumption of illegal drugs as well as prostitution activities. The complainants also indicated that they felt these activities were a serious threat to their health, safety, and security.

As a result of these complaints, the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Unit set up video surveillance in the hallway leading to the Respondent’s property which sent a live feed to the team’s vehicles. By observing the feed, the Director of Law Enforcement came to the conclusion that there was indeed the purchasing and consuming of illegal drugs and potential prostitution going on in the property. Following this, in December 2009, the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Unit served the Respondent with a warning letter. Upon receiving this letter, it is reported that the Respondent admitted to selling and smoking “crack”, and told the Unit that he would stop doing this.

However, five additional complaints were filed between December 2009 and January 2010, stating that the property was being used for drug trafficking and prostitution. Statements by the complainants indicated that there were numerous visits from people who appeared to be high on drugs to the property throughout the day and night, that the Respondent often met with several vehicles in the parking lot for brief periods of time before returning to his property, and that a woman who appeared to be a prostitute often frequented the property.

The surveillance continued and it was determined that the activities initially observed before the warning letter was served were still happening. The Director of Law Enforcement then decided to apply to the court for a community safety order pursuant to s.5(1)(e) of Alberta’s Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, S.A. 2007, c. S-0.5 (“the Act”). The order would, in essence, ban the Respondent from returning to the property for 90 days, the intention being to give people the impression that the property is no longer occupied and therefore no longer a place to carry out the activities in which the Respondent is being accused of. Read the rest of this entry »

RCMP Misses Alert, Keeps Little Girl at Risk

After an extensive review, the RCMP has determined that a Mountie did not properly hear an alert from a dispatcher warning the Mountie of the potential violence and the special interest in the driver of a vehicle, when he had pulled over the vehicle for speeding.

John Francis Dionne was pulled over by a Mountie in Airdre on February 24th. Little did the Mountie know, Dionne had a 10 year old girl he had allegedly kidnapped from a local mall, just minutes before, in the vehicle with him.

It was determined that the dispatcher communicating to the Mountie about the call had advised the officer that the driver was flagged “V”, meaning he is capable of violence and is of special interest to the RCMP. Dionne was subject of an RCMP public notification last fall after being released from custody on a different matter.

Though the Mountie admits to hearing the part that implied that Dionne was potentially violent, he submits that he did not pick up the “of special interest” part. Therefore, thinking that he was following process properly, the Mountie simply gave Dionne a speeding ticket and let him go, with the girl still in the car.

Luckily the 10 year old girl was dropped off at a nearby McDonald’s shortly after the pull over, unhurt.

Read the full story at: http://www.calgarysun.com/news/alberta/2011/03/16/17638521.html

Wife of Accused: “My husband is not a terrorist!”

An Edmonton man’s wife is begging the public to consider his innocence and to be objective in assessing the man himself, 38 year old Sayfildin Tahir Sharif, who is accused of taking part in a suicide bombing which killed five soldiers in Iraq. Mr. Sharif is currently facing extradition to the U.S, where he is charged with being an associate to a multinational terrorist network.

The Globe and Mail reports that the U.S. Department of Justice claims that Mr. Sharif’s charges can be evidenced by information gathered in Canadian court, authorized wiretaps, and search warrants. Mr. Sharif’s common-law wife, Cara Rain, is accusing the Justice Department of being too subjective in their assessment of her husband, as they seem to be focusing on his Islamic religion rather than his actual actions.

Ms. Rain states: “I would not have shared my home, and shared my life, and shared my children’s life with a terrorist. And to my knowledge, the evidence that the U.S. has against Sayfildin is not enough to prove he is a terrorist or has terrorist tendencies.” Ms. Rain further rejected what investigators argue was Mr. Sharif’s personal view of his faith: invoking it for suicide bombers, with promises of 70 virgins and honour in the afterlife.

Mr. Sharif faces a life sentence if convicted. Ms. Rain, meanwhile, awaits his release.

“Speed on Green” Tickets Refunded

After finding out that a faulty “Speed on Green” ticket was recently issued to an Edmonton driver, the province of Alberta has decided to refund $13 Million in speeding fines to Albertans who, since November 2009, have been caught by “Speed on Green” cameras in the Edmonton and Calgary areas.

The region’s top Crown prosecutor Steven Bilodeau made the decision to refund the fines paid on approximately 140,000 tickets after finding out about the faulty ticket, which reportedly showed a vehicle going 143 km/hr when in fact it was going at the same appropriate speed as the other vehicles around it. All of the “Speed on Green” cameras in Edmonton have been temporarily disabled until a solution is decided upon. In Calgary, four of the most recently purchased cameras have also been disabled.

Bob Boutilier, Edmonton’s manger of transportation, disagrees that the whole camera system should shut down. Instead, he argues, an error-free system should be implemented, which would require a review of the current system.

See the full story at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/prairies/alberta-to-refund-13m-in-speeding-fines-photo-radar-network-in-doubt/article1881306/?cmpid=rss1

Alberta Serious Incident Response Team to Investigate Fatal Stand-off

A 54 year old man who was seemingly suicidal was shot and killed Sunday afternoon by RCMP officers in Strathcona County (east of Edmonton) after a day long stand-off.

Police were called early in the day after the man threatened to harm himself. After an initial confrontation with the police outside of his house, the man retreated back into his house where he retrieved a loaded 12-gauge shotgun. According to the RCMP, the man was displaying suicidal behaviour and challenged the police. Four officers then fired numerous rounds at the man until he fell to the ground. He was treated by Emergency Medical Technicians, but later died at the scene.

It has been reported that some of the incident might have been caught on video. This, as well as the man’s motivation behind challenging the RCMP, will be part of an investigation launched today by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team. The main focus will be to determine if the police officers were acting legally and justifiably.

The man who was killed remains anonymous until a next-of-kin is identified.

Read the full story at http://www.cbc.ca/canada/edmonton/story/2011/01/17/edmonton-asirt-strathcona-county-shooting.html

RCMP Officer takes Accountability for Actions

A 33 year old prisoner who complained from being assaulted by an RCMP officer in his cell at the Lac La Biche Detachment Centre in Alberta on September 13, 2009 can rest assured that the officer who beat him will have his time in court as the accused. Constable Desmond Sandboe plead guilty last week to the beating, and will be sentenced on January 27, 2010. The video of the beating, which was shown in court, was pure evidence of how “appalling” the incident was.

As of now, Const. Sandboe has been suspended without pay. Click here for the full story.

We are the victims – don’t take our children away!

A man named Jason Devine and his wife Bonnie Devine were visited by two government officials on November 9th, 2010 threatening to apprehend their four children, claiming that their home was unsafe for the children to live in. Mr. Devine, along with a friend, was attacked by five masked men in his duplex, at 1:00 am in the morning of November 8th, 2010.Mr. Devine, who has been known to publish the identities of neo-Nazis, skinheads, and white supremacists on the internet, is claiming that this is the fifth attack in recent times and he believes these attacks are in relation to his anti-racism activities. The Devine’s are active participants of an anti-racist group named Anti-Racist Action Calgary.

Ms. Devine and the four children were asleep at the time of the attack and were unharmed.

Despite warnings from officials that Mr. Devine’s anti-racism activities are contributing to the threats to the safety of himself and his family, he nevertheless defends his position that he should be allowed to exercise his rights to free speech in a democratic society and claims that it is the attackers who should be apprehended, not his children. The children were sent to stay with Ms. Devine’s mother, who was told by Alberta Children and Youth Services not to allow the Devine’s to remove their children from her house.

After a public outcry regarding the taking of the Devine children (based on the fact that Mr. Devine was a victim of crime), the children have since been allowed to return home.

See the original story at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/prairies/calgary-anti-racism-activist-beaten-blames-neo-nazis-for-targeted-attack/article1790914/

Read about the children’s return home at: http://calgary.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20101110/CGY_devine_update_101110/20101110/?hub=CalgaryHome

Op-Ed: Facebook and Freedom of Expression

This case, cited as Pridgen v University of Calgary, 2010 ABQB 644, involves twins Keith Pridgen and Steven Pridgen, two students at the University of Calgary who were enrolled in the Faculty of Communications and Culture in the fall of 2007. Both students participated in posting comments to a Facebook Wall created by a fellow student, under the name of “I NO Longer Fear Hell, I Took a Course with Aruna Mitra.” Professor Mitra was teaching a Law and Society course, namely LWSO 201, which the Applicants were taking.

Steven Pridgen’s post read: “Some how I think she just got lazy and gave everybody a 65….that’s what I got. Does anybody know how to apply to have it remarked?”

Keith Pridgen’s post stated:

Hey fellow LWSO. homees .. So I am quite sure Mitra is NO LONGER TEACHING ANY COURSES WITH THE U OF C !!!!! Remember when she told us she was a long‑term professor? Well actually she was only sessional and picked up our class at the last moment because another prof wasn’t able to do it … lucky us. Well anyways I think we should all congratulate ourselves for leaving a Mitra‑free legacy for future L.W.S.O. students!

Though eight other students participated in posting comments about Professor Mitra on the Facebook Wall, the twins were the ones who took legal action against the University.

Read the rest of this entry »

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