No right to strip search suspect, lawyer argues

Woman charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking

Cam Fortems / Kamloops Daily News
February 19, 2013 01:00 AM

Police had no right to strip search a suspected drug dealer before the woman had a chance to talk to her lawyer, a defence lawyer argued Tuesday.

Tammy Van Buskirk, 40, is charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking.

Crown prosecutor Anthony Varesi said RCMP's drug squad set out in May 2011 to make arrests in a suspected dial-a-dope operation.

Const. Brian Lamb testified he posed as a buyer and phoned Van Buskirk from the RCMP station to set up a fake cocaine deal.

Van Buskirk was reluctant at first to do a drug deal because she didn't know him, he said. At one point she asked the undercover Mountie, "'How do I know you're not a cop?'" Lamb testified.

After six phone calls Lamb said she finally agreed to sell him "a forty" - .40 grams of crack cocaine typically worth about $40. Lamb arranged to meet the seller near Memorial Arena.

When Van Buskirk rolled up in the passenger side of a pickup, Lamb testified he told her, "Hey, forty?'"

She replied "Yeah." Lamb then gave a signal to a four-member cover team to move in for the arrest.

But the Mounties didn't find drugs on any of the three people in the truck. A female RCMP member eventually strip searched Van Buskirk, finding a ziplock baggie with less than .3 grams of cocaine on the jail cell floor.

Defence lawyer Kevin Walker argued Van Buskirk's rights were violated when she was searched prior to speaking with a lawyer. He said RCMP didn't have enough grounds to conduct a strip search.

"Strip searches are humiliating," he told Justice Ian Meiklem. "They're an invasion of privacy not needed for suspicions."

But Meiklem allowed the evidence, saying: "The reasonable and probable grounds for arrest were strong ones."

Meiklem also said it was not unreasonable for police to strip search Van Buskirk before she was able to speak with a lawyer.

Another RCMP member testified the cell phone found in the truck rang twice with suspected customers on the line after Van Buskirk was arrested.

Lawyers are expected to make final arguments Wednesday morning. Van Buskirk is scheduled for a second trial also beginning Wednesday on a related charge.

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