Undercover cops don’t need warrant to email, text suspected child lurers: court

High court decision came Thursday in the case of Sean Patrick Mills of Newfoundland

Undercover police officers do not need to obtain a judicial warrant before using email or instant-message services to communicate with someone suspected of child luring, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.

The high court decision came Thursday in the case of Sean Patrick Mills, a Newfoundland man convicted of internet luring after a police officer posed online as a 14-year-old girl named “Leann.”

The constable created an email account and Facebook page for the fictitious girl in 2012 to see if people online were preying on underage children.

The officer received a Facebook message from Mills, who was 32, leading to an exchange of emails that turned sexual.

Police used a screen-shot program to capture and record copies of the communications, but they did not have a court-approved warrant.

Mills was arrested in a St. John’s park where he had arranged to meet the girl.

READ MORE: No jail time for B.C. man busted in Creep Catchers sex sting

Mills argued at trial that police violated his Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantee against unreasonable search or seizure and that officers should have obtained a warrant for their investigation.

The trial judge said Mills’ rights had been violated, but still allowed the screen captures into evidence and found him guilty. An appeal court ruled the police did not need judicial approval for their operation and upheld the conviction, prompting Mills’ appeal to the Supreme Court.

All seven Supreme Court judges who heard the case concluded Mills should be found guilty. A majority said that adults cannot reasonably expect privacy online with children they do not know.

In reasons adopted by the majority, Justice Russell Brown wrote that in most cases police are unlikely to know in advance of any potential privacy breach — for example, whether the child is truly a stranger to the adult.

“Here, the police were using an investigative technique allowing it to know from the outset that the adult was conversing with a child who was a stranger.”

Justice Sheilah Martin, however, said police should have obtained a court’s permission for the operation.

She argued the nature of the relationship — an adult communicating online with a child they do not know — was irrelevant to weighing privacy rights.

“Casting suspicion on an entire category of human relationship not only stigmatizes that relationship — it exposes meaningful and socially valuable communication to unregulated state electronic surveillance.”

Brown was careful to note the particular circumstances of the case and stressed that the court was not suggesting police could simply monitor communications in the hope of stumbling upon a conversation that reveals criminality.

“With respect, the alias-based sting operation employed here is not some first step to a dystopian world of mass unregulated surveillance.”

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

QUIZ: Test your knowledge of Victoria Day

How much do you know about the monarch whose day we celebrate each May?

Penticton runners take some top spots in Peach City RunFest

Both the top male and female half-marathon winners were from Penticton

Kelowna firefighters douse blaze in hedges

The cause of the fire on Renfrew Road is under investigation.

Former Greyhound employees gather in Okanagan to say a final farewell

Drivers, depot agents and dispatchers from Western Canada gathered in Penticton to say goodbye.

Comedy of romance and crosswords to hit the stage in Penticton

Performances take place from May 22 to 26 at the Cannery Theatre

Weather holds up for Rutland May Days

60th annual May Day midway, market and entertainment saw hundreds of attendees

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

Kelowna firefighters douse blaze in hedges

The cause of the fire on Renfrew Road is under investigation.

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

Okanagan Springtime Regatta draws more than 50 sailboats

Sailors treated to windy, excellent long weekend conditions on Okanagan Lake in Kelowna

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Okanagan tattoo fundraiser draws tons of support

Lineup around the block in Vernon for start of Five Fathoms Tattoo event for Children’s Hospital

Carbon dioxide at highest levels for over 2.5 million years, expert warns of 100 years of disruption

CO2 levels rising rapidly, now higher than at any point in humanity’s history

Most Read