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Reasonable grounds satisfied

Reasonable grounds satisfied Tip detail, corroboration make up for credibility

The degree of detail and independent corroboration of a tip by police can compensate for the weak credibility of informers.

In <R. v. Dhillon, 2016 ONCA 308> police received information from three confidential informants that the accused was trafficking heroin and crystal methamphetamine. They investigated this information, including using surveillance and searching various databases.


May 9, 2016
By Mike Novakowski

Reasonable grounds satisfied
Tip detail, corroboration make up for credibility

The degree of detail and independent corroboration of a tip by police can compensate for the weak credibility of informers.

In <R. v. Dhillon, 2016 ONCA 308> police received information from three confidential informants that the accused was trafficking heroin and crystal methamphetamine. They investigated this information, including using surveillance and searching various databases.

Several months later the investigator and several other police officers set up surveillance outside Dhillon’s residence. The investigator saw three encounters that day that he believed were drug transactions. In all three, Dhillon left his home and got into the front passenger seat of a vehicle that pulled up in front of his house or turned into his driveway.

The first car, a Nissan SUV, arrived at 1:02 pm. Police stopped it shortly after it left Dhillon’s residence. The driver fled on foot but was arrested. He was carrying approximately $3,000 cash.

A black Ford truck arrived at about 1:06 pm and police saw Dhillon approach it with something cupped in his hand, get in and then leave empty handed two minutes later.

A silver Ford entered Dhillon’s driveway at about 1:40 pm and police arrested Dhillon after he got in. They found 9.3 grams of heroin near his feet in the car and entered his home, believing exigent circumstances required them to secure the residence to preserve evidence and ensure officer safety. A search warrant was issued and executed later that day and officers found 46.8 grams of heroin and about 300 grams of methamphetamine in a bedroom.

An Ontario Superior Court Justice found the investigator had the necessary subjective grounds for arrest but they were not objectively reasonable. In the judge’s view, the tipster information was not credible nor compelling, and there was little material corroboration of the trafficking allegations.

Since the arrest was not lawful, Dhillon’s right not to be arbitrarily detained under <s. 9> of the Charter was breached and the evidence found in the silver Ford and Dhillon’s home was excluded under <s. 24(2)> of the Charter. Dhillon was acquitted of three counts of possessing heroin and methamphetamine for the purpose of trafficking.

The Crown appealed the acquittals to Ontario’s top court, arguing the trial judge erred in his Charter ruling and that the investigator had the necessary grounds to make the arrest. The Ontario Court of Appeal agreed, finding that, even without the information related to the Nissan driver’s arrest, police still had reasonable grounds to arrest Dhillon.

{The arrest}

of the Criminal Code allows a peace officer to make an arrest without a warrant when he or she believes, on reasonable grounds, that a person has committed or is about to commit an indictable offence. The arresting officer must subjectively have reasonable and probable grounds on which to base the arrest and they must be objectively justifiable to a reasonable person placed in the officer’s position.

In this case, the trial judge failed to look at the totality of the circumstances. By considering the informant tip and the police observations in isolation, the judge improperly discounted the informant information due to their weak credibility. Justice Tulloch, speaking for the court, stated:

[para. 30].

The credibility of the three informants was weak. They were all untested. The information was, however, compelling and corroborated.

“The information was fairly detailed and specific, said Tulloch.

As for corroboration, <the consistency of the information from the three informants should be given some weight. There was significant overlap in their description of the respondent’s nickname and name, approximate age, ethnicity, residence, vehicle, types of drugs in which he trafficked, location at which the transactions occurred, and… certain similarities in the manner in which the transactions would occur.

These consistencies increase the significance and reliability of the informant information and distinguish this case from circumstances in which there is only one anonymous or untried informant.>

Furthermore, police confirmed the accuracy of specific information during their investigation, including: Dhillon’s name; the colour, make, and age of his vehicle; his ethnicity, address, approximate age and that he had been arrested but not convicted in relation to the possession of stolen property. Police confirmation of these details tended to substantiate the reliability of the informants’ information.

Observations also corroborated some indication that the criminal activity alleged was indeed occurring. There were three brief meetings within one hour, all occurring outside Dhillon’s residence in various cars. This behaviour, in light of the investigator’s knowledge and experience, also helped inform the inferences that could be drawn when assessing the objective reasonableness of the grounds to arrest. This sequence of events also conformed to the pattern predicted by the informant information so as to remove the possibility of innocent coincidences.

Since police had subjectively and objectively justifiable reasonable grounds to arrest Dhillon, his <s. 9> Charter rights were not breached.

The Crown’s appeal was allowed and Dhillon’s acquittals were set aside.