Woman found guilty on trafficking, awaits second ruling

RCMP find drugs during two strip searches

Kamloops Daily News
February 20, 2013 01:00 AM

A woman convicted Wednesday of possessing drugs for the purpose of trafficking awaits another decision today following a second trial - this time after being busted with a far larger amount of crack.

B.C. Supreme Court justice Ian Meiklem found Tammy Van Buskirk guilty after she was found in May 2011 with $40 worth of crack cocaine. RCMP set her up as part of an undercover operation.

Defence lawyer Kevin Walker argued the 40-year-old woman's rights were violated because police strip-searched her in cells without sufficient grounds. She also didn't have an opportunity to speak with a lawyer before the search.

An RCMP member working undercover called Van Buskirk from the station, begging her to supply him with a "40" - what is supposed to be .40 grams of crack but in reality is typically less - for $40.

He arranged to meet Van Buskirk in front of Memorial Arena. The RCMP cover team moved in on a predetermined signal, but before any transaction was made.

The cocaine, worth about $40, was found in the RCMP jail cell in the midst of a strip search.

Meiklam ruled that it "defied common sense" that Van Buskirk did not have drugs with her to sell to the undercover Mountie. She will be sentenced today.

Van Buskirk has a prior conviction for possession for the purpose of trafficking.

In the second trial that began Wednesday, a senior Kamloops RCMP member testified that an informant tipped him that Van Buskirk was again dealing crack -this time with a large amount she was selling on a Welfare Wednesday in August 2011.

"Welfare Wednesday is a busy time," Sgt. Darren Michels testified of the day in the month when social assistance cheques are received.

"If you have a large amount of drugs, it's the case for dealers to deal that day and into the next day. Dealers have a lot of product and want to get the maximum value."

Walker again argued police breached Van Buskirk's rights, based on what he said was insufficient information to arrest and search her. The informant said only that Van Buskirk was in a silver van with Alberta plates and that she had drugs.

RCMP attempted to pull over the van earlier in the day on Aug. 24 but the chase was called off when the vehicle tried to elude a squad car at high speed in a residential area.

Police later arrested Van Buskirk at Columbia Motor Inn, which Michels said was associated with the drug trade at the time. After a strip search they found her with slightly less than an ounce of cocaine, worth about $2,000.

Meiklem is scheduled to make his ruling Thursday.

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