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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nelson’s SMRT1 Technologies to provide vending tech to Vancouver company

UpMeals will launch 22 machines across Canada using SMRT1’s personalized machines

July Kootenay real estate sales at record high

Sales and prices of Kootenay real estate on the rise

Sound system, Ipad stolen from Rossland restaurant

Mook Thai Lounge staff have had to buy a new sound system at a cost of $700

UPDATE: Search effort underway for Slocan River drowning victim

The man was swimming near Winlaw on Wednesday.

Arson suspected in several wildfires lit near Fruitvale

RCMP making progress in arson investigation of Marsh Creek fires

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

Gene editing debate takes root with organic broccoli, new UBC research shows

Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables with origins in this scientific haze

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

B.C. wildfire crews have battled 111 blazes in the last seven days

Twenty-nine fires remain active, as of Friday (Aug 7)

Most Read