Running with scissors
A Niagara Falls police officer, who testified that nine times out of ten when he sees a pair of scissors in a car it means drugs are there too, gave “false evidence,” a judge has decided.
That resulted in the evidence being excluded and the charge dismissed, says Toronto criminal lawyer Tyler Smith.
Court heard that after the man was pulled over, he removed his insurance papers from his glove box and the officer spied a pair of scissors tucked in the compartment.
“One of the main reasons the evidence was excluded and the charge dismissed is because of the false evidence and reliance on spotting a common utensil as grounds for the search,” says Smith, a partner at Hicks Adams LLP.
“In a nutshell, the officer acted on a hunch because my client and passenger were young men, in the area of a casino, very late at night, and he went on a fishing expedition,” says Smith. “He used the scissors as a pretence to conduct a lawful search. But, the search and my client’s detention were deemed unconstitutional. He then gave false evidence in court to justify his search further, the judge found.”
Under Smith’s cross-examination, the officer testified he’d equally suspect that scissors found in the possession of an elderly woman on her way to a quilting bee as an indicator of marijuana possession.
“The reckless giving of false evidence by the police can lead to miscarriages of justice,” said Justice A.J.Watson in R v. Obee Chanthaboury. In this case had this evidence not been subjected to rigorous and skillful cross-examination, it may have been erroneously relied upon by this court.”
“I was thrilled that the judge disbelieved the officer’s evidence and believed my client ¬– a rarity – and that this likely common practice of illegal detentions/searches by the police has been publicly identified. The judge is the gatekeeper and got it right on this occasion,” says Smith.