Today, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its ruling in what had been anticipated, if not trumpeted, beforehand as promising to be a ‘momentous’ and ‘important’ decision involving on-line privacy in Canada. Here is the CBC’s report on it.
I’ll summarize the essence of the case by noting that it revolved around a guy who was convicted of possessing child porn. The key point, though, was that despite there being no search warrant having been issued or presented, the police became aware of said possession by virtue of them asking for, and receiving from, his ISP the name, address, etc. of the person attached to the IP address to which the porn was being downloaded.
The guy claimed that his conviction should be thrown out since he had been convicted in large part on the basis of a warrantless search, the latter being contrary to the Canadian Constitution. His case made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCOC) which, as I noted above, announced its decision earlier today.
SCOC’s opinion (if I’ve read and interpreted things correctly) is that, indeed, the search was unconstitutional - warrants are required for such a search to be allowed. That said, notwithstanding the unconstitutionality of the process by which the guy was convicted, his conviction must still stand! Why? Well, apparently because the “police acted reasonably and in good faith, so the administration of justice would be impaired if the evidence gathered by searching Spencer’s home in this particular case were thrown out of court”.
So let’s see if I’ve got this straight: despite the fact that warrantless searches of this sort are contrary to the highest and most overarching ‘laws’ of the nation, they can still be used to help convict people so long as the cops are acting in good faith with their search. That’s about it, eh?
First question: in all seriousness, have I understood things correctly?
Second question: what exactly is the purpose of a constitution if ‘one offs’ are allowed? This case shows one example of a such a ‘one off’. Here’s another (link goes to a case where SCOC said, yes, this guy’s freedom speech/expression was unconstituionally infringed but that’s okay because the speech and ideas he promulgated were hateful, etc.).