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Court upholds Thunder Bay Police warrant for covert entry to a drug ring's storage locker

The search resulted in the arrest of three southern Ontario men.
2015 10 9 police lights

THUNDER BAY — The Ontario Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by a Waterloo, Ont. man to overturn his conviction on drug-related charges laid by Thunder Bay Police in December 2017.

Dwayne Brown was 36 years old when police executed a search warrant in a locker at a self-storage business in the intercity area.

Inside the unit, they found crack cocaine, marijuana, prescription pills and cash.

Brown was charged with possession of cocaine for trafficking, possession of the proceeds of crime, and conspiracy to traffic cocaine.

He was convicted after unsuccessfully applying to quash the warrant based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms' guarantee of security against unreasonable search and seizure.

The warrant that police used was a general warrant.

This authorizes the use of any device, investigative technique or procedure, or do any thing described in the warrant that would constitute an unreasonable search and seizure if a warrant wasn't authorized.

The Criminal Code of Canada requires that a judge who grants such a warrant be satisfied there are reasonable grounds to believe an offence has been or will be committed, and that information concerning the offence will be obtained by the use of the warrant.

In applying for the warrant, Thunder Bay Police said they had received information from seven confidential informants that Brown and two associates were selling cocaine at a north-side hotel.

Surveillance confirmed the information provided by the informants, which led police to the storage locker where the three men were recorded on camera coming and going with various bags over a period of about two weeks.

In their subsequent application for the warrant, police said they needed it to gather evidence of the full scope of the drug network, learn the stash locations, identify couriers, and seize evidence to support trafficking charges. 

They said a conventional search warrant, rather than a general warrant, would by its nature likely terminate their investigation, as the main targets would then immediately be notified they were the subject of a police investigation.

On Nov. 22, 2017, they covertly entered and searched the locker.

About two weeks later, they arrested Brown in an intercity-area hotel room where they found a key to the storage locker.

Around the same time, they also apprehended two Toronto-area residents, including one who arrived at Thunder Bay Airport carrying $90,000 worth of cocaine.

In its July 28, 2021 ruling on Brown's appeal to quash the general warrant, exclude the evidence that police obtained through its use, and grant an acquittal, the Court of Appeal rejected his argument that he had been subjected to an unreasonable search.

It noted the opinion of the judge who reviewed the appropriateness of the warrant when it was challenged during the trial: "The reliability of the police investigation, particularly with respect to the storage locker was strong" and "the confidential informants' information was compelling, credible and corroborated."

That information included the street names of sellers, the location of drug transactions, vehicle descriptions, the number of the cell phone used to recruit women to sell the drugs, the frequency of the transactions, and drug packaging and pricing.


Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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