Undercover cops don’t need warrant to email, text suspected child lurers: court

High court decision came Thursday in the case of Sean Patrick Mills of Newfoundland

Undercover police officers do not need to obtain a judicial warrant before using email or instant-message services to communicate with someone suspected of child luring, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.

The high court decision came Thursday in the case of Sean Patrick Mills, a Newfoundland man convicted of internet luring after a police officer posed online as a 14-year-old girl named “Leann.”

The constable created an email account and Facebook page for the fictitious girl in 2012 to see if people online were preying on underage children.

The officer received a Facebook message from Mills, who was 32, leading to an exchange of emails that turned sexual.

Police used a screen-shot program to capture and record copies of the communications, but they did not have a court-approved warrant.

Mills was arrested in a St. John’s park where he had arranged to meet the girl.

READ MORE: No jail time for B.C. man busted in Creep Catchers sex sting

Mills argued at trial that police violated his Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantee against unreasonable search or seizure and that officers should have obtained a warrant for their investigation.

The trial judge said Mills’ rights had been violated, but still allowed the screen captures into evidence and found him guilty. An appeal court ruled the police did not need judicial approval for their operation and upheld the conviction, prompting Mills’ appeal to the Supreme Court.

All seven Supreme Court judges who heard the case concluded Mills should be found guilty. A majority said that adults cannot reasonably expect privacy online with children they do not know.

In reasons adopted by the majority, Justice Russell Brown wrote that in most cases police are unlikely to know in advance of any potential privacy breach — for example, whether the child is truly a stranger to the adult.

“Here, the police were using an investigative technique allowing it to know from the outset that the adult was conversing with a child who was a stranger.”

Justice Sheilah Martin, however, said police should have obtained a court’s permission for the operation.

She argued the nature of the relationship — an adult communicating online with a child they do not know — was irrelevant to weighing privacy rights.

“Casting suspicion on an entire category of human relationship not only stigmatizes that relationship — it exposes meaningful and socially valuable communication to unregulated state electronic surveillance.”

Brown was careful to note the particular circumstances of the case and stressed that the court was not suggesting police could simply monitor communications in the hope of stumbling upon a conversation that reveals criminality.

“With respect, the alias-based sting operation employed here is not some first step to a dystopian world of mass unregulated surveillance.”

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Canadiana complete when Murray McLauchlan’s in the house

Legendary singer/songwriter brings his folksy talents to the McPherson on June 13

So, they found ‘Dave from Vancouver Island’

Dave Tryon, now 72, will reunite with long-ago travelling friends in Monterey, Calif.

COLUMN: Motoring along sure to be different with changes to cars, infrastructure

Younger generation seems intent on creating a more efficient planet

Vancouver Islander pens Mourning Has Broken following death of her daughter

Book by radio host Erin Davis gives advice to others struggling with grief

Volunteers already rescuing fry from drying creekbeds around Cowichan Lake

It’s early but already salmon fry are being left high and dry

New airline regulations bring compensation for tarmac delays, over-bookings

Some of the new regulations will roll out in July, while others are expected for December.

Five takeaways from the Court of Appeal ruling on B.C.’s pipeline law

It’s unclear how many tools are left in B.C.’s toolbox to fight the project

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve investigating after sea lion found shot in the head

Animal is believed to have been killed somewhere between Ucluelet and Tofino

Woman assaulted at Bill Moore Park in Courtenay

Female grabbed from behind Thursday morning

Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Scheeraccused the Liberal government of spending $79.5 billion of previously unbudgeted funds

Vancouver woman sexually assaulted after man follows her home; suspect at large

Police are looking for an Asian man in his 40s after the incident on Vancouver’s east side.

B.C. man, 30, arrested for driving his parents’ cars while impaired twice in one day

The Vancouver-area man was arrested after officers caught him driving impaired twice in one day

More than half of Canadians support ban on handguns, assault rifles: study

Divide between rural and urban respondents in latest Angus Reid Institute public opinion study

Most Read