(File photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Surrey drug dealer loses appeal in sassafras odour case

The aroma of sassafras led police to obtain a search warrant, the court heard

A convicted Surrey drug dealer who appealed his convictions in a case where the aroma of sassafras led police to obtain a search warrant has lost his case in the Court of Appeal for British Columbia.

Judge Donald Gardner convicted Andrew Ronald Slemko on Aug. 30, 2017 of two counts of possessing methamphetatamine (43 grams) and MDMA (390 grams) for the purpose of trafficking, and two counts of possessing class A precursors – 1.3 kilograms of red phosphorus and 1.08 kilograms of ephedrine.

Slemko, age 40 at the time, was sentenced to two years and six months, less 15 months time served.

Gardner quashed the warrants, finding Slemko’s Charter rights had been breached, but accepted evidence that led to the convictions.

“This appeal requires us to consider whether a trial judge correctly quashed warrants and, having done so, whether he erred in admitting some of the evidence obtained on what he deemed to be unconstitutional searches,” Appeal Court Justice Peter Willcock noted in his July 17 reasons for judgment, with which Justices Mary Saunders and Bruce Butler agreed.

The case involved searches at Slemko’s Surrey residence, a storage locker on 24th Avenue and a dwelling and detached garage at 72nd Avenue in Langley.

READ ALSO: Court upholds Surrey man’s meth trafficking conspiracy conviction

READ ALSO: Pubs accused of ‘negligently’ serving alcohol before Surrey traffic crash

READ ALSO: B.C.’s justice system in ‘triage,’ attorney general says

The court heard police observed Slemko putting three 20-kilogram bags of caustic soda as well as five bags and a plastic container of kitty litter into his vehicle.

The court heard a police officer smelled sassafras near a Langley property under surveillance, on account of wind blowing from the west, and observed four CCTV cameras at the property. The officer said a chemist with the Health Canada Drug Analysis Service Laboratory told him safrole, a controlled precursor that’s found in sassafras oil, is used in the production of ecstasy and is commonly found a clandestine laboratories, as is caustic soda and kitty litter.

“These three items together are consistent with illicit drug manufacturing,” Willcock noted.

The court heard safrole smells like black licorice or star anise, and is used in the synthesis of MDMA.

Gardner, however, gave little weight to the police officer’s claim he smelled safrole emanating from the property. He noted that while caustic soda and kitty litre are often used at clandestine labs to conceal odours, “that also does not justify the issuance of a warrant when one considers these items also have lawful uses.”

“Furthermore, in my view the presence of security cameras should not be viewed as evidence that illegal activity was necessarily occurring on the property; security cameras are not only used in illegal activity, they obviously also have lawful purposes.”

The trial judge decided that none of the evidence contained in the Information to Obtain a search warrant “can elevate mere suspicion into sufficient grounds for a warrant” and therefore, “because the warrant should not have been issued,” the subsequent search violated Slemko’s Charter rights.

“In the case at bar, although the police did not act in bad faith, it does not automatically follow that they acted in good faith.”

Slemko’s lawyer at appeal argued that the trial “erred in principle” by concluding the warrants were improperly obtained and then admitting as evidence “fruit of the forbidden tree.”

Willcock found the provincial court judge “erred in quashing the warrants” but also decided the judge didn’t err in admitting evidence that was obtained during the search of the storage locker, and so dismissed the appeal.



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Tom on Twitter

BC Supreme Court

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Delview Thanks4Giving committee members Alexa Liptak (left) and Amanda Quibing stand with the donation box outside the school’s front entrance. (James Smith photo)
Thanks 4 Giving food drive going drive-thru due to COVID-19

Organizers hope North Delta residents will come to them for Delview Secondary’s annual food drive

(counterclockwise from top-left) Candidates for Delta North Jet Sunner (BC Liberals) Neema Manral (BC Greens) and Ravi Kahlon (BC NDP) take part in a virtual all-candidates meeting hosted by Delta Residents Association director Christina Shyong on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. (Delta Residents Association/YouTube.com screenshot)
Health care, taxes, education discussed at final Delta North all-candidates meeting

Virtual meeting hosted by the Delta Residents Association on Oct. 17

(Image: CDC)
Fraser Health orders Surrey food-processing facility to close amid COVID-19 outbreak

Staff member at Surrey long-term care facility also tests positive for the virus

Three people are running to represent the riding of Delta North in the B.C. Legislature: (from left) Ravi Kahlon (BC NDP), Neema Manral (BC Green Party) and Jet Sunner (BC Liberals). (Photos submitted)
Get to know the candidates for Delta North

We sent candidates a questionnaire to help voters learn more about them. Here’s what they had to say…

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the Fraser South region has doubled in the last two weeks. The number of cases in the Fraser East region has tripled.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
COVID-19 surge in B.C. fuelled by spikes in new cases in Fraser Valley & Surrey area

Number of newly confirmed cases has tripled in Fraser Valley and doubled in the Surrey/Langley area

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

The possibility of the Canadian Premier League expanding to the Fraser Valley has been floated online. (Facebook photo)
Canadian Premier League possibly eyeing Fraser Valley expansion

Soccer league looking to add ninth team to the mix, B.C. markets potentially rumoured

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

The family of Anika Janz, who died after collapsing at school, has launched a GoFundMe to assist with funeral proceedings. (GoFundMe photo)
Family of student who died launches GoFundMe

Rick Hansen Secondary School student Anika Janz, 14, died after collapsing in PE class

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

Most Read