The Ottawa Police drug unit has lost another case in court after a judge tossed all evidence and acquitted their target in light of “flagrant’ and “shocking” abuses of basic charter rights.
The case had to do with the high-risk, gunpoint arrest of Mohamed Hassan after surveillance on May 19, 2018. They seized drugs and money from the reputed crack dealer after he was grounded outside his car.
But in a recent ruling on a successful charter application by defence lawyer Leo Russomanno, Ontario Court Justice Trevor Brown said Ottawa police had no reasonable and probable grounds to make the warrantless arrest, let alone at gunpoint. The judge also ruled that Hassan was arbitrarily detained, subjected to unreasonable search and denied his rights related to legal counsel.
In his decision, the judge described the gunpoint arrest as terrifying and said senior Ottawa police officers breached Hassan’s charter rights again and again.
“The fact that two senior and experienced drug unit officers so flagrantly disregarded fundamental rights related to the right to counsel is shocking. Each officer held a fundamental misapprehension of the right to counsel and the spirit of that right. Both claimed to be familiar with the duty to hold off after giving the right to counsel, but their evidence spoke to how little they actually understood of that right. Their ignorance of these basic charter protections is highly troubling,” Brown said in a March decision.
“I find that (senior detectives) violated Mr. Hassan’s right to counsel by failing to hold off from eliciting further evidence from him after he made it clear that he wished to exercise his right to counsel,” the judge ruled.
The judge said the seriousness of the lack of reasonable and probable grounds for Hassan’s roadside arrest was compounded by its violent manner.
“This was an inherently violent takedown by four OPS officers who removed Mr. Hassan and his passenger at gunpoint, then grounded them. Irrespective of my finding on the rationale for this manner of execution, I would observe that if the police plan to to execute a warrantless arrest at gunpoint, it is that much more important to ensure that proper grounds for the arrest exist in the first place. As I have articulated above, those grounds did not exist here,” Brown said.
In his decision to throw out the drug trafficking case, the judge also noted that one of the officers testified that he was acting on a “gut feeling.”
The judge also condemned Ottawa police for its routine practice of gunpoint arrest when it comes to suspected drug dealers, including marijuana dealers.
The judge said he understood that that there’s truth to the proposition that drugs and guns sometimes go hand-in-hand, he said.
But continued: “However, our courts cannot condone the indiscriminate use of gunpoint, high-risk takedowns in all circumstances where a suspected drug dealer in a motor vehicle is being arrested.”
The judge cited case law and reminded police that they don’t have a licence to pull a gun on every suspected dealer.
In this case, the judge said no consideration was given to “any less stark means of executing this arrest.”
The judge said the routine practice of gunpoint arrests, like in the case of Hassan, has become a “foregone conclusion.”
In the unlawful arrest and search, Ottawa police seized under a gram of cocaine, six grams of marijuana, 22 grams of crack and 43 pills of oxycodone.
Ottawa police declined to comment on this story.