Appeal dropped against grow op gang

Sometimes Mounties get their man, and sometimes they don’t. Crown prosecutors have abandoned their appeal against four men allegedly involved…

Sometimes Mounties get their man, and sometimes they don’t.

Crown prosecutors have abandoned their appeal against four men allegedly involved in the largest grow-op in Yukon history after police couldn’t find them.

The four men were acquitted after territorial court judge Karen Ruddy decided evidence against them had been improperly collected by RCMP.

In 2005, after seizing 4,500 pot plants from grow-ops in Copper Ridge, police charged eight men for possessing and growing marijuana.

The trial was held in November 2006.

Defence argued that evidence gathered by police should be excluded because it violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Ruddy agreed.

RCMP breached the arrested men’s rights to legal counsel, she wrote in an 81-page report in April 2007.

Police also manipulated court documents, arrested people without grounds and failed to follow established rules for processing the accused after arrest.

As a result, a great deal of evidence was excluded from the case, said Crown counsel Noel Sinclair.

“And that meant that we didn’t have sufficient evidence to prosecute four of the eight men that were charged.”

The men were acquitted, but the Crown filed a notice of appeal of Ruddy’s decision in May.

Before the appeal could proceed, the defendants had to be served notice.

But the RCMP could not find the four men.

They were no longer in Whitehorse and had left no forwarding addresses.

“After they were acquitted, they were no longer subject to the court processes that required them to remain in touch with the court, their bail supervisor and so forth,” said Sinclair.

They disappeared.

“We believe that they are somewhere in the Lower Mainland area,” said RCMP spokesperson Roger Lockwood.

“We utilized police resources from RCMP and other police forces in other jurisdictions to locate the individuals.

“Intensive inquiries have been made to locate them.”

Unable to locate the defendants, the Crown decided to abandon the appeal.

The Crown could have applied for an alternative means of notification, such as publishing it in a newspaper, said Sinclair.

But this requires the Crown to prove to the court that this would successfully bring the appeal to the defendants’ attention.

There wasn’t enough known about their backgrounds to do so.

Of the other four defendants, three pleaded guilty and served up to a year in jail.

One man is applying to make his guilty plea in Vancouver where he lives.

His case is still before the courts, but should be wrapped up this spring.

“Overall, there was millions of dollars in illegal drugs that was taken off the streets of the Yukon,” said Lockwood.

“There was a great deal of effort and some very good work done by some very conscientious members of the RCMP.”