Trial of doctor accused of trafficking 50,000 opioid pills adjourned until Friday

The drug trafficking trial for a Nova Scotia doctor accused of prescribing 50,000 opioid pills to a hospital patient has been put on hiatus as a judge decides whether to throw out several pieces of evidence.

The lawyer for Dr. Sarah Dawn Jones argued Monday in Bridgewater provincial court that information his client gave to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia should be excluded.

Stan MacDonald also objected to the Crown introducing a medication drop box from the Crossroads Family Practice in the Halifax suburb of Tantallon, where Jones worked.

MacDonald argued using the evidence would violate Jones's charter rights against self-incrimination.

Doctor compelled to give evidence

When charges were laid around a year ago, Bridgewater police alleged that Jones wrote the prescriptions for oxycodone and Oxyneo pills over a one-year period.

MacDonald said Monday the province's Medical Act compelled Jones to provide the evidence to the college, which temporarily suspended her licence to practise in August 2015 after a pharmacist reported unusual activity to the college's investigative branch.

The college contacted Jones to discuss allegations she was diverting drugs and reported the matter to police. In response to the college's investigation, Jones wrote a 16-page letter outlining her treatment of a patient and also gave oral testimony.

MacDonald argued police only became aware of the potential importance of the medication drop box and its inventory of contents through the college's investigation. 

He said the Crown's theory that Jones had obtained and diverted pills was partly based on the evidence obtained from the college. MacDonald said Jones had informed the committee there were medications in the drop box.

"When the box was seized, there was no narcotics returned [in it] ... and the Crown says, 'Well, that's incriminating because Dr. Jones told the college she returned them [the narcotics] to that box,"' said MacDonald.

Multiple charges

The Crown, however, argued police would have come across the drop box during the normal course of their investigation. 

Jones has pleaded not guilty to charges including possession of narcotics for the purpose of trafficking, drawing a document without authority and fraud. Charges of theft and breach of trust were dropped last year.

The college said Jones remains under an interim suspension.

Judge Timothy Landry has reserved his decision on the charter arguments until Friday, at which time lawyers will also discuss scheduling the remainder of the trial.

Ten days were previously set aside for the trial, which had been expected to run all week.

The CBC's Blair Rhodes live blogged from court.