Drug charges tossed after Calgary police commit multiple Charter violations in suspect’s arrest

Fradsham noted even people accused of the most heinous crimes are entitled to Charter protection

Article content

Noting his court’s need to “disassociate itself” from Calgary police officers’ disrespect for the Charter, a Calgary judge has tossed crucial evidence against a drug trafficking suspect.

In a written decision posted online, provincial court Judge Allan Fradsham said he had no choice but to exclude drugs and cash seized from Joshua Ari Matteo Saunders’ SUV and apartment after officers committed multiple Charter breaches during his arrest.

Among those was the beating up of Saunders during a traffic stop before he was even informed of why he was being arrested.

“The force used to effect the arrest of Mr. Saunders was excessive and unreasonable,” Fradsham said in finding the accused’s right to life, liberty and security of the person was violated.

The judge also agreed with defence lawyer Eleanor Funk that the officers investigating a Crime Stoppers tip that Saunders was involved in the drug trade committed multiple other breaches.

Advertisement

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

But Fradsham said despite the behaviour of the officers, he still had to consider whether excluding the evidence would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.

“Drug trafficking is a serious offence and has been described by the Supreme Court as a ‘pernicious scourge in our society,’” Fradsham noted.

“Society has an interest in punishing and preventing the sale of illegal narcotics. However, society also has an interest in having a justice system that is ‘above reproach,’ especially when the charge is severe.”

Fradsham noted even people accused of the most heinous crimes are entitled to Charter protection.

“Society’s interest in seeing this crime prosecuted is outweighed by the need for the court to disassociate itself from serious and repeated instances of disrespect of the Charter.”

Fradsham found Saunders’ rights were breached within seconds of him being pulled over on March 28, 2019, in an arrest conducted so police could search his apartment for drugs.

Evidence from Const. Steve Kelly’s body-worn camera showed Saunders rolling down his window after the officer and his partner, Jordan Kochan, approached.

Six seconds after Saunders rolled down his window, Kelly grabbed him by the head and neck and four seconds later started punching him, Fradsham noted.

It wasn’t until 47 seconds after Kelly began his assault on Saunders that the officer told him he was being arrested for possession of narcotics for the purpose of trafficking.

Advertisement

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The judge found the force used by Kelly was unreasonable and he didn’t inform him immediately of why he was being detained.

Fradsham also found police twice delayed in allowing Saunders to contact a lawyer, tried to get information from him after he expressed his desire to speak to counsel, and committed unlawful searches of his apartment and cellphone.

The decision excluded close to 100 grams of cocaine seized and $5,850 in cash.

Following the ruling Fradsham acquitted Saunders on charges of possession for the purpose, possessing proceeds of crime and resisting Kelly.

KMartin@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @KMartinCourts


We have created a new newsletter that is so much more than a list of today’s top stories. The Noon News Roundup is a succinct midday wrap written by our team of Calgary journalists to inform and entertain you. It’s an easy way to stay on top of the stories that impact your life. Click here to subscribe.

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

View Source