RCMP issue apology to N.B. man they seized cannabis plants from

·4 min read
The RCMP executed a search warrant at Jeremy Barton's residence, the former Coles Island School, where they seized more than 100 cannabis plants that were part of a grow-op Barton was operating. (Catherine Harrop/CBC - image credit)
The RCMP executed a search warrant at Jeremy Barton's residence, the former Coles Island School, where they seized more than 100 cannabis plants that were part of a grow-op Barton was operating. (Catherine Harrop/CBC - image credit)

The RCMP have formally apologized to a New Brunswick man for how the force tracked and returned items seized during a raid on his cannabis grow-op in 2019.

In a letter to Jeremy Barton of Coles Island, the RCMP acknowledged a report from the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, which determined Const. Peter Marshall failed to generate a comprehensive list of personal property seized from Barton's home.

The commission also determined the RCMP delayed returning Barton's property once it was not required for an investigation or for evidence.

"These actions were contrary to RCMP policy," Supt. Dan Austin, district commander for the South East District RCMP, wrote in the letter shared with CBC News.

"On behalf of the RCMP, I would like to apologize to you for this unreasonable accounting of your personal property and any distress that this may have caused you."

Barton is one of four men suing the RCMP, claiming officers wrongfully raided their cannabis grow-op located in the former Coles Island School, about 88 kilometres east of Fredericton, in September 2019.

The complainants are suing the RCMP for damages, alleging officers seized and later destroyed 60 mature plants.

A judge has yet to rule on that case, which is separate from the public complaint.

Barton filed the complaint with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP on March 11, 2020.

In it, he alleged that on Sept. 30, 2019, at about 8 a.m., Const. Marshall executed a search warrant at his home, along with eight to 10 other officers.

He said that despite having a Health Canada permit to grow "a certain number" of cannabis plants, Marshall authorized the seizure of a portion of them, along with the deed to his home, his house key and his Health Canada paperwork.

Property not returned after charges dropped

Although Barton was arrested and charged, those charges were later dropped, Barton said. His plants, however, were still not returned to him.

"I would like to be compensated immediately for my plants that were seized," Barton wrote in the complaint.

"Being deprived of what was meant for medical purposes has certainly placed a financial hardship upon myself. I would like to have my other property returned immediately as well."

RCMP Insp. Marc Maillet wrote to Barton on March 15, 2021, informing him that Cpl. Julie Rogers-Marsh had conducted a thorough investigation into his allegations that RCMP seized cannabis plants for which he had a licence to grow, and that RCMP mishandled his property and did not return it.

Inspector rejected complaints

Based on Rogers-Marsh's findings, Maillet wrote he did not support either of the two allegations by Barton.

"In summary, Constable Marshall legally executed the search warrant allowing him to seize the marijuana plants from your property," wrote Maillet in the report, which was shared with CBC News.

"Upon the seizure of the drugs, Health Canada requires the completion of a Seizure and Disposition Report. Through this report, Health Canada authorized the destruction of the plants."

According to documents filed by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, Barton requested a review of the RCMP's report on May 6, 2021.

Commission recommended apology

After its review, the commission found that Const. Marshall unreasonably failed to generate a comprehensive list of the personal property seized from Barton's home, as required by the RCMP's policy on investigators' notes.

Details of that review are contained in a report signed off by chair Michelaine Lahaie, which was shared with CBC News.

It also found Marshall unreasonably failed to complete a report to a justice, as required by the Criminal Code and RCMP policy.

The RCMP failed to address the crux of Mr. Barton's concerns: the fact that he still does not know exactly what was seized from his home. - Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP

The commission recommended an "appropriate member of the RCMP" extend an apology to Barton for the unreasonable accounting of his personal property.

It also recommended Marshall receive operational guidance regarding the requirement to take detailed and accurate notes, as well as regarding the documentation and reporting requirements for judicially authorized search warrants.

"As it recognized in its report, the RCMP unreasonably delayed returning Mr. Barton's property to him once it was no longer required for investigative or evidentiary purposes, which was contrary to its policy on exhibit disposal," the commission wrote.

"However, the RCMP failed to address the crux of Mr. Barton's concerns: the fact that he still does not know exactly what was seized from his home, or whether all of his property was returned."

CBC has asked Barton to comment.

In a letter dated July 5, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki agreed with the commission's findings and recommendations.

Lucki also said she would direct that Marshall's supervisor, Const. Robert Driscoll, also receive operational guidance regarding the documentation and reporting requirements for judicially authorized search warrants.

In an emailed statement sent Friday, the New Brunswick RCMP confirmed that "operational guidance was given to the member and supervisor involved regarding the documentation and reporting requirements for judicially authorized search warrants, as per RCMP policy."

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