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Court decides RCMP sting operation entrapped accused dealers

Crown lawyers dropped 12 of the 17 drug trafficking charges laid through a $70,000 RCMP undercover operation in Yukon communities last summer after…

Crown lawyers dropped 12 of the 17 drug trafficking charges laid through a $70,000 RCMP undercover operation in Yukon communities last summer after the courts deemed the operation entrapment.

Two more of the charges against a couple from Carmacks were dismissed because police did not provide evidence against the accused within a reasonable time before the case went to trial in mid-March.

The 17 charges stemmed from an undercover operation codenamed Project Meander.

Last summer, six RCMP officers embarked on a two-month 12-community sting operation that caught 17 alleged small-time drug dealers in its net.

The officers travelled to the communities and set up a tent where they peddled T-shirts, toques and flags with pot leaves emblazoned on them.

An undercover officer working the kiosk asked customers if they would trade merchandise for marijuana, or if they had any drugs to sell.

The objective was to gather intelligence on drug use in Yukon’s communities and make “prosecutional” purchases from identified traffickers.

“In the Yukon, drug trafficking is prevalent within all the communities … an undercover operation holds the highest likelihood of success of addressing the sale of drugs,” according to the RCMP’s investigational planning report included in a court file.

The operation cost more than $70,000 in salaries, accommodation, meals and rental fees.

The court file contains photos of people in sweat pants approaching the tent which adorned with Che Guevara magnets, was studded belts and pot-stenciled T-shirts.

The peoples’ faces are blacked out or smudged to protect their identities.

Late last summer, the police laid charges against 16 of the accused for trafficking marijuana and one for trafficking cocaine.

One of the first cases to go to trial was Rory McGivern’s.

The Faro man was charged with marijuana trafficking.

Entrapment happens when police offer someone the chance to commit the crime, said Crown prosecutor Ludovic Gouailler.

“It means the person is deemed to have committed the offence, but argues it’s unfair that the conviction be retained against them because they were enticed by the police,” he said.

Police have been earning convictions through undercover busts for centuries.

It’s only OK to entrap a suspect in very specific cases.

The first is when the person is known to the police and is likely to commit the crime.

The second is when the operation is conducted in an area notorious for the crime.

In McGivern’s case, RCMP argued that the booth itself qualified as being an area notorious for the crime.

The officer used a number of filtering methods to choose his targets, explained Gouailler.

For example, he did not ask minors or those who approached the booth but appeared uninterested.

The Crown argued that was sufficient to ensure the suspects were not entrapped.

But visiting Justice Rene Foisey, of Alberta, disagreed.

After the McGivern case was dropped Crown lawyers reviewed the charges laid in the other Project Meander busts.

“We, as a Crown, decided we would not appeal the decision,” said Gouailler.

“We went back and looked at all the remaining files and a lot of them presented circumstances so similar to the McGivern file that it wasn’t worth it.

“The decision that applied in McGivern would have applied in those files as well, so we decided to not proceed with them.”

So the Crown dropped the pot dealing charges on 11 other individuals — four men from Watson Lake, two men from Ross River, a woman from Teslin, another from Carcross, one from Haines Junction, a man from Pelly Crossing and another from Dawson City.

One of the 17 charges went to sentencing after a guilty plea.

Carmacks resident Lisa Ann Marie Smith pleaded guilty to trafficking marijuana and was sentenced to nine months probation.

Today, only two charges stand.

Jamie Darrell Brown of Pelly Crossing, charged with trafficking cocaine, is slated to appear in court on June 6.

Sean Bernard Sidney of Carcross, accused of dealing marijuana, will appear on April 10.