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Police 'ignored' accuseds' rights in ecstasy bust
News that five men have been cleared of all criminal charges despite their link to a massive ecstasy lab found inside an older West Richmond split-level house in 2007 has shocked neighbours.
"It just disturbs me, now that they're getting away with it," one long-time Raymond Avenue resident told The Richmond Review. "It's not going to ward off anybody else from doing this."
Said another: "I just hope that (police have) learned from it, that the mistakes that they've made aren't made again.
Another homeowner, who moved into the neighbourhood a few years prior to the shocking discovery of a multi-million dollar ecstasy production facility in January of 2007, added: "I think that's frustrating to most people, but what can you do? That's what you call good lawyers...it's just the taxpayer money going down the drain."
In his June 21 decision that wasn't posted until Friday, Richmond provincial court Judge Paul R. Meyers tossed out all evidence gathered by police from the homes at 3671 Raymond Ave. and 107-7480 Gilbert Rd., both in Richmond, and 5608 Melbourne Ave. in Vancouver.
Myers said police consistently "ignored and flaunted the accuseds' Chart of Rights, and did so consistently over a 14-month period."
In his strongly-worded rebuke of the police's handling of this case, Judge Myers wrote in his ruling: "Society has a very strong and vested interest in the adjudication of a criminal case on its factual merits. When there is hard evidence found, as in this case, proving the production and distribution of dangerous drugs like ecstasy and that hard evidence in uncovered by search warrants issued by a justice, the public expects that the guilty people will be apprehended and after a trial, will be found guilty by the courts. However, society also has a very strong and vested interest in making sure that the police do not run roughshod over the cherished rights that we have proudly enshrined in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms Act."
Among the breaches Judge Myers found were:
• failing to file a written report with the court registry within the required seven days of the execution of a search warrant
"It is fundamental to the Courts’ ability to supervise the proper execution of warrants and it is fundamental to the rights of people who are about to have their homes searched by the police, to know that the Courthouse in their area, will have all of the legal documents pertaining to the intrusion of their privacy, available for them to inspect," Judge Myers wrote. In the case of one warrant, the report has still not been filed, while in that of another, it wasn't filed until long after the seven-day requirement.
• failing to get an interpreter for at least one of the accused,—who couldn't speak English—when their rights were read to them
"The police basically just closed their eyes to this real, potential problem, by doing nothing in advance to plan for it. The day of the searches arrived and the anticipated problem, immediately became a real problem," Judge Myers wrote.
• failing to show search warrant to arrested individuals
"In the case at bar, the police did not forget to bring the search warrant with them. They did bring the search warrant with them but simply did not bother to show or read the search warrant to Li (or his co-Accused, Zhou)," Judge Myers wrote.
• unreasonable execution of search warrant
"It is not an insignificant thing to force someone to stand or sit, half naked while being hosed down in front of their neighbours, in the middle of the day and in the middle of winter. This humiliation so easily could have been avoided, had the smallest of forethought been used by the police officers, the members of the fire department or the members of the (Clandestine Lab Department)," Judge Myers wrote.
In deciding to throw out all evidence, Judge Myers ruled: "...I have concluded that, in the long term, the repute of the administration of justice would be adversely affected by admitting into evidence, against any of the Accused, anything that was seized by the police at Gilbert Rd., Raymond Ave. (residence and garage), Melbourne Ave., and from Huang’s white Chevrolet van.
Accused in this case were Tin Lik Ho, Qing Hou, Shao Wei Huang, Yi Feng Kevin Li and Kai Lai Kyle Zhou.
RCMP would not comment on the judge's ruling, other than to say: "We are reviewing the decision of the court to identify any areas of concern and determine how best to address those concerns."