When two Langley RCMP officers suspected a man was a trafficker who was concealing drugs in his rectum, they ordered a “bed pan vigil,” where a suspect is placed in a “dry cell” with no running water while the police wait for nature to take its course.
As it turned out, the man was concealing a bag of drugs, and after testing the contents of the bag, he was charged with possessing heroin and cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.
But when the case came to court this summer, Surrey Provincial Court Judge Robert Hamilton ruled the initial arrest and the bed pan vigil search that followed were unlawful.
The written reasons for the April judgment, recently posted online, relate how a Langley RCMP constable became suspicious after pulling a driver over for a sobriety check near a Langley tavern in August 2015.
The constable testified that as he approached the vehicle, he noticed that the driver’s seat was reclined and observed that the man’s “hands were behind his back and down the back of his pants.”
The officer said he decided to arrest the driver for possession of marijuana because he was able to detect “a strong odour of vegetative marijuana” and called in a second officer.
They handcuffed the driver, put him in the police cruiser and searched the car, finding what they said appeared to be a marijuana grinder with flakes.
The charge was changed to possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking.
On the way back to the Langley RCMP detachment, the officers took the suspect to Langley Memorial Hospital, because, they said, he seemed to be ill.
One constable told the ER doctor that he believed that the driver “had secreted drugs in his body cavity and asked the doctor to retrieve those drugs.”
But with no warrant and no consent from the driver, the doctor refused.
Back at the detachment, the officer was granted an application by a judicial justice over the phone to hold the driver for three days in a dry cell.
There was another trip to the LMH ER, where once again, the driver refused to consent to any medical treatment and the ER doctor said there was no need to admit the man to hospital.
During the second hospital visit, the officers said they were trying to persuade the driver that “keeping the drugs inside of him was risking his health.”
After a couple of hours, the suspect asked a female officer to leave the room and “took down his trousers and retrieved the drugs.”
The drugs were then sent for analysis and determined to be heroin and cocaine.
Given the volume of the drugs, the man was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking.
At a hearing on whether the seized drugs were admissible as evidence, the judge ruled that the officer “had the necessary subjective grounds” to make the initial arrest for possession of marijuana, but not enough to justify charging the driver with the more serious offence of trafficking.
The judge noted the flakes found during the cars search weren’t sent for testing to determine if they were marijuana, so there was no evidence “that the device identified as a marijuana grinder contained marijuana.”
As for the bed pan vigil, the judge said just seeing the driver put his hands behind his back did not “raise a credibly based probability” that the man had secreted drugs inside a body cavity.