R. v. LE, 2019 SCC 34

For determining the constitutionality of the investigations done by police, attention should be given to the concepts like “mental detention” and “racial discrimination”.

This case pertains to the matter which discusses the issues of Canadian Charter of rights and freedoms specifically the right to be free from arbitrary detention and reasonable expectation of privacy. The Appellant in this case named Mr. Tom Le has appealed to the court alleging that the police had acted unconstitutionally and violated his rights enshrined under Article 8 and 9 of the Canadian Charter.

The incident occurred on May 25, 2012 when three police officers, decided to go to the rear yard of Townhouse, Toronto. They noticed 4 young men and the appellant. They started questioning and asked them to produce their identification cards. One of the police officers Cst. O’Toole asked appellant to show his identification card but he failed to show it. He was carrying a satchel with him and when police enquired about it, appellant tried to flee but was caught. When police searched his satchel, they found a loaded firearm, cash and 13 grams of cocaine in his possession. He was charged with 10 offences but appellant in his trial pleaded innocent and said that the items found as evidence could not be used against him alleging that his rights under Article 8 and 9 were violated by the police.

The court observed that there were no reasons for the police to enter the backyard and the fact that they immediately started questioning the persons present there highlight the pre conceived notions in the minds of police officers. They entered the backyard like trespassers and their actions and the language reflected that they were dominating the appellants and his friends. Their manner and conduct represented that they were reasonably more “forceful, coercive and threatening” than they are in usual circumstances. Therefore, their entry into the backyard cannot be considered as merely “assisting in meeting needs or maintaining basic order”. From the conduct of police, it can be easily inferred that the detention of the appellant commenced when the police entered the backyard as he was mentally detained and could not leave that place with his free will. With regard to the analysis that whether the investigation by police was legitimate and was in consonance to Section 9 of the Charter, the test of “reasonable suspicion” is to be applied and after construing the facts of case, the court concluded that the detention was arbitrary. Appellant was a person who belonged to racial community. The court also looked this case from the angle of racial profiling and observed that three police officers when entered the backyard to question 5 racialized young men, then the latter would have really felt being forced to remain at that place and obey the orders given by the officers. A person’s reasonable expectation of privacy as ensured by the Charter was also infringed and therefore, in accordance with Section 24(2) of the Charter which excludes evidence obtained in the process which has violated the provisions of the Charter, the court excluded the evidence taken from appellant and allowed his appeal.