Police had no right to seize hidden bedside camera from Airbnb condo in Toronto, judge says

The decision effectively ended the voyeurism prosecution of the Toronto condo owner, Michael Chow

A police officer had no right to enter a condo rented to an Airbnb guest who found a video camera hidden in a clock pointed at the bed, an Ontario judge has ruled.

The decision effectively ended the voyeurism prosecution of the Toronto condo owner, Michael Chow. He had argued police had breached his rights by going into the apartment and seizing the camera without a warrant, even though the aggrieved guest had invited an officer in.

“The police not only breached Mr. Chow’s rights by entering and searching the apartment without a warrant, but they continued to breach his rights by seizing his property and searching it,” Ontario court judge Joseph Bovard said in the decision. “Admitting evidence that was obtained in such a manner would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.”

The case arose in September 2018 when Robert Wallenberg, in town for the Toronto International Film Festival, rented the downtown Airbnb apartment from Chow for 10 days. After discovering the hidden camera, Wallenberg contacted Airbnb, which advised him to go to a hotel and call police.

Court records show Wallenberg let the officer, identified as Const. Lewis, into the apartment and showed him the clock-camera. On advice of a detective, Lewis seized the gadget and placed it in a property locker at the police station. Another officer later inspected the camera briefly, then applied for a warrant to search the device.

ALSO READ: Airbnb restricts young people from renting after slew of deadly house parties

After finding stored video of people engaged in various activities in the bedroom, including one man masturbating on the bed and others, including Chow, in various states of undress, police charged the owner with voyeurism.

At trial, Chow argued for exclusion of the video evidence on the basis that police violated his rights with the warrantless search and seizure.

Lewis testified he made no attempt to contact Chow before entering the condo. He said he believed he was justified in going in at Wallenberg’s invitation because the Airbnb guest had the key and temporary ownership of the unit. He said he seized the device on the advice of the detective to preserve potential evidence.

In his analysis, Bovard said a key issue in deciding whether police had breached Chow’s charter right against unreasonable search and seizure was whether the owner had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the condo unit. Bovard concluded Chow did, given evidence that he was the sole owner of the apartment, it was filled with his possessions, and he used it himself at times.

“In these circumstances, Mr. Chow had a subjective expectation of privacy in the apartment,” Bovard concluded. “Mr. Chow had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the clock-camera and in the contents of the SD memory card.”

The judge also rejected prosecution arguments that by renting out his condo to Wallenberg, Chow had undermined his own privacy expectations.

“Whatever rights Mr. Wallenberg had over the apartment, he could not waive Mr. Chow’s privacy rights in the apartment and its contents,” Bovard said.

The judge also concluded the officer’s suspicion of possible criminal activity did not give him the right to seize the clock-camera or allow police to inspect it without a warrant. Bovard said he realized that excluding the evidence would gut the prosecution’s case, but said he had to do so anyway given the cumulative charter violations.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

short term rentals

Just Posted

Abandoned Neucel mill in Port Alice to cost at least $17 million to decommission

Removing hazardous waste and de-risking the site ratchet up bill to taxpayers

Storm watchers urged to be careful after two rescued from Ucluelet shoreline

“People need to take responsibility of their own actions, the district can only do so much.”

Fire crews put out blaze in Cowichan Secondary outbuilding

Three halls respond to fire in storage structure

Overnight shutdown of Highway 1 at McKenzie interchange for sign installation

Traffic will be impacted in both directions, detour available

Furstenau accuses Horgan of politicizing new Cowichan hospital as premier makes Valley campaign stop

Premier suggests that new facility hinges on re-election of NDP government

Orange Shirt Society launches first textbook on residential school history

Phyllis Webstad and Joan Sorley worked on the 156-page book to help educate students

B.C. Greens introduce all-women slate for Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay ridings

School trustee Nicole Duncan assumes Oak Bay-Gordon Head candidacy

Man who stole truck and canoe in View Royal believed he was fleeing zombies, court finds

Judge finds man not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder for 2019 thefts

B.C. VOTES 2020: Businesses now owe $6 billion in deferred tax payments

COVID-19 relief from remittance to province ends with September

Long-term care study credits fewer COVID deaths in B.C. than Ont. to funding, policy

The study was published Wednesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal

Float-plane crash near Oyster River leaves pilot injured

The plane crashed shortly after take-off from a private property and had no other passengers on board

More sex abuse charges laid against B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’

Investigators now focussing efforts on alleged victims within the Glad Tidings Church community

Photographer Eiko Jones delivered the 11th Annual Haig Brown lecture at Tidemark Theatre

Jones also screened his newly completed movie Heartbeat of the River at the event

RCMP hope public can help locate missing Nanaimo man

Gary Alexander Davidson, 54, has not been seen or heard from since Sept. 20

Most Read