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Strip search in Abbotsford was warranted, court rules

The B.C. Court of Appeal has upheld earlier decisions that cleared an Abbotsford Police officer of misconduct during a strip search in 2009.  - Abbotsford News file photo
The B.C. Court of Appeal has upheld earlier decisions that cleared an Abbotsford Police officer of misconduct during a strip search in 2009.
— image credit: Abbotsford News file photo

The B.C. Court of Appeal has upheld earlier decisions that dismissed a complaint against an Abbotsford police officer.

Retired judge William Diebolt, in a disciplinary decision under the Police Act, initially cleared Const. Karen Burridge of any wrongdoing during a strip search in August 2009.

The complainant had alleged that the strip search was conducted illegally and without her consent.

In that incident, Burridge and another officer were transporting a prisoner, who told them he recognized a female drug dealer driving a vehicle in the area.

The officers pulled over the woman's car, and were joined by a third officer in a separate cruiser.

All three officers noticed the smell of burning marijuana coming from the woman's car as they approached it.

Her vehicle was searched, and no drugs were found. The women, who had a criminal record for drug trafficking, was then told she was required to be strip-searched.

Because she had a temporary permit on her car that was two hours away from expiring, she was given the choice of being searched at the police station or in a nearby gas station washroom to save time.

She opted for the immediate search, conducted by Burridge, and no drugs were found.

She was released without charges but filed a complaint with the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) 18 months later.

The investigating officer concluded that Burridge had "acted in good faith" and her actions did not constitute misconduct. APD Chief Bob Rich agreed, but the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) felt the matter should be reviewed, and Diebolt was appointed.

He concluded that the strip search was warranted, but police complaint commissioner Stan Lowe said Diebolt erred in "applying the common law" and the "doctrine of good faith" in making his decision.

Lowe then sought judicial review, and the judge in that case agreed with Diebolt's ruling, saying no police misconduct had occurred.

Lowe then appealed that decision.

Earlier today (Wednesday), the three-judge B.C. Court of Appeal panel upheld the earlier decisions and also said that Lowe was "guilty of unreasonable delay in proceeding with judicial review."

Their written decision states that under the Police Act, a complaint must be filed within 12 months of the incident in question, unless the commissioner can find a valid reason for an extension.

They said Lowe did not provide specifics for the extension, and the matter was further delayed through the judicial review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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