EDITORIAL: Appeal pot ruling

In a December trial, a B.C. Supreme Court judge threw out the evidence against the owner of a Surrey home in which a pot grow op of more than 700 plants was busted by police.

The Mounties had knocked on the front door, announced their presence, and waited a moment or two. Getting no answer, they used a battering ram to break down another door and entered, guns drawn.

Justice Catherine Bruce found the Mounties’ actions were heavy-handed, and violated the homeowner’s rights. To admit evidence gained by the dramatic entry would “bring the administration of justice into disrepute,” the judge ruled.

With all due respect to the court, we suggest it is this kind of decision that deeply undermines public confidence in the justice system – by appearing to place the rights and protection of criminals above all else.

While the City of Surrey has made outstanding progress in eradicating grow ops from residential areas, the fact remains that their existence poses a public danger.

Growers steal electricity by rerouting wiring, frequently causing fires. Drive-by shootings and rip-off attempts are common, with innocent bystanders occasionally becoming the unintended target of bullets and assaults.

Until the federal government truly comes to grips with the complex question of legalization/criminalization of the pot industry, it remains a cauldron of violence, and citizens are right to want grow ops out of their neighbourhoods.

However, busting them can be dangerous.

The pot trade is extremely lucrative, and is largely controlled by organized crime. Grow ops are often defended with booby traps, guns and other weapons.

Police must take appropriate measures, such as using an element of surprise, and preparing for armed confrontation.

It would appear the Surrey Mounties who busted the home in this case did what they were supposed to do. They knocked, identified themselves as police with a search warrant, waited a few minutes and then forced their way in.

Just what are the police supposed to do instead? Send a letter of invitation for the pot growers to present themselves at a pre-arranged time? Politely wait outside until the occupants deem it convenient to open the door?

This ruling in this case must be appealed and overturned. The reputable administration of justice demands it.

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