Canada’s top court strikes down police powers to wiretap without warrants (TheStar)

Discussion in 'News' started by Drew Wilson, Apr 14, 2012.

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  1. Drew Wilson

    Drew Wilson AKA IceCube Staff Member Moderator Contributor

    OTTAWA—The Supreme Court of Canada struck down a law that gives police warrantless wiretap powers to prevent an emergency, saying it provides no accountability or oversight mechanism.

    The unanimous judgment issued Friday gave Parliament 12 months to re-write the law. In the meantime, the 1993 Criminal Code (Section 184.4) — the only wiretap provision that does not require after-the-fact notification either to the person wiretapped or some kind of report to Parliament — remains in force.

    The decision doesn’t pose a risk to public safety while Parliament rewrites the notice provision, said lawyer Joe Wilkinson, counsel to the Criminal Lawyers Association of Ontario, which intervened in the case.

    It is still open to police to intercept private communications to prevent emergency situations but “they would do well to give some kind of notice to whomever it is ended up getting intercepted,” he said.

    Wilkinson said there have only been a few superior court rulings on the power, and police were working “very much in the dark” as to its proper use.

    Now, he said, “the police still have the bulk of the section and they’ve got it with some really good guidance from the top court in the land.”

    The country’s top court, ruling in a 2006 drug-related kidnapping case, said most of the law “passes constitutional muster.”

    Police may only use the authority if they believe “on reasonable grounds” that the situation is so urgent, a judge’s authorization could not be obtained under another provision. But it was deemed unconstitutional because “unless a criminal prosecution results, the targets of the wiretapping may never learn of the interceptions and will be unable to challenge police use of this power.

    The unanimous ruling was the first written by rookie judges Michael Moldaver and Andromache Karakatsanis.

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    There's been very very few times in the last few years I've been proud of being Canadian, but this is certainly one of those cases. They essentially said that warrantless wiretapping violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guards against unlawful search and seizure. Canada did something right for a change.

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