By Monique Tamminga
Published November 8th, 2013/ langleytimes.com
“The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that a Langley man will have to go to trial for a second time, facing charges of housing a grow-op.
Thanh Long Vu was charged with production of marijuana, possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking, and theft of electricity after Langley RCMP searched his 84 Avenue home in September 2007.
The police obtained a warrant authorizing the search of a residence for evidence of theft of electricity, including documentation identifying the owners and/or occupants of the residence.
In the course of their search, police found marijuana and they also discovered two computers and a cellular telephone. A search of these devices led to evidence that Vu was the occupant of the residence.
Even though the information on the warrant indicated that the police intended to search for “computer generated notes,” the warrant did not specifically refer to the search of computers.
In Vu’s trial he argued that the search violated his Charter rights. The trial judge agreed, acquitting him of the drug charges. The Crown appealed and the Court of Appeal ordered a new trial.
Vu appealed that decision to Canada’s highest court and lost.
On Nov. 7, a panel of Supreme Court judges ruled in favour of a new trial and also stated that the evidence found on the computers can be included in the new trial.
However, the judgment also said that the privacy of what is on someone’s computer should be taken very seriously and that in this day and age, the requests on a search warrant should be very specific about pre-authorization to search computers.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association considers this a big win for people’s right to privacy.
“The BCCLA is very pleased with the court’s decision. By requiring police to obtain a specific warrant to search computers and similar devices before the fact, the court has put the brakes on run away searches of vast quantities of highly personal and private information,” said Raji Mangat, counsel for the BCCLA.”