Court of Appeal Decision of the Week

Is an Anonymous Tip Sufficient Grounds to Arrest?

Case: R. v. Chioros, 2019 ONCA 388 (CanLII)

Keywords: Anonymous Tip; ss. 8, 9, and 24(2) of the Charter; R. v. Debot, [1989] 2 SCR 1140; Grounds for Arrest; Exclusion of Evidence

Synopsis:

Police receive an anonymous Crime Stoppers tip that the Appellant, Mr. George Chioros, is trafficking large amounts of cocaine. They conduct surveillance, noting his vehicle matches the Crime Stoppers description. They also observe, inter alia,

  • interactions with individuals known to police and/or who are subject to criminal investigation; and
  • activities which are believed to be consistent with “counter-surveillance” driving.

Two months later, the Appellant is arrested. A search both incident to the arrest and at the Police detachment results in the discovery of 249 grams of cocaine (both on his person and in his vehicle). A further warrant is obtained for the Appellants home, revealing more cocaine and marijuana. The Appellant is charged with

  • possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking,
  • possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking, and
  • possession of oxycodone.

Despite a Charter application alleging breaches of his ss. 8 and 9 rights, the Trial Judge dismisses the application and convicts the Appellant on all counts.

On appeal, the Appellant submits the Trial Judge erred in applying the factors set out in R. v. Debot, [1989] 2 SCR 1140. The Court of Appeal agrees; finding that the Appellant’s Charter rights were breached, that the evidence should be excluded, that the convictions should be set aside, and that acquittals entered in their place.

Importance:

Was there enough evidence here to support the Appellant’s arrest prior to his arrest? Pursuant to Debot, the question is whether the Crime Stoppers tip was compelling, credible, and corroborated by the surveillance evidence. This question engages s. 9 of the Charter because Police must have reasonable and probable grounds to believe they have sufficient evidence of a crime to facilitate an arrest. To determine whether this is or is not the case, involves looking at the totality of the circumstances surrounding the anonymous tip. (See para. 17).

In this case, the Court of Appeal noted that the anonymous tip in this case could not be credible because there was no evidence with respect to the tipster’s reliability or motivation. (See para. 18). Further, the Court found the tip was not compelling:

The tip was also not compelling. It consisted of a bald assertion that the appellant was engaged in drug dealing without any information regarding the details of his alleged activities, whether the tipster had firsthand knowledge of the alleged activities, or the currency of the information. It included readily available public information regarding the appellant’s address and car, along with information about some, but not all, of the vehicles that were sometimes parked in his driveway. (See para. 19).

Finally, the Court determined there was no “meaningful corroboration” in this case because the Police did not actually observe the Appellant engage in any drug activity. At its “highest” the evidence amounted to an assertion the Appellant associated with a suspected drug dealer. (See para. 20).

All of this led to the conclusion that the Police lacked sufficient grounds to affect the arrest. As such, the Appellant’s s. 9 rights were violated and the resulting searches breached s. 8 of the Charter. (See para. 22).

On the s. 24(2) analysis, the Court of Appeal described Police misconduct in this case to have been “serious”, and the impact on the Appellant was described as “profound”. The Police had “failed to undertake even the most rudimentary steps to verify information”, opting instead to “effect an arrest on a member of the public based on unconfirmed and unreliable information”. (See para. 24). For these reasons, and despite the Appellant’s concession that the drugs seized are reliable evidence central to the Crown’s case, the Court of Appeal simply could not “…be seen to endorse the type of misconduct engaged in by the police in this case.” (See para. 27).

Counsel for the Appellant: Mark Halfyard (Rusonik, O’Connor, Robbins, Ross, Gorham & Angelini LLP, Toronto)

Counsel for the Respondent: Jen Conroy

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Posted: Monday, May 13, 2019