Child pornography Charter motion granted; charge dismissed

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

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CORNWALL – A single charge of possession of child pornography against a Cornwall man has been dismissed after a city judge ruled Thursday that the man’s Charter rights were violated.

Judge Diane Lahaie did not have written reasons for her decision prepared today but shared with defence lawyer Michael Spratt and Crown attorney Alexandre Simard that the defence’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms application was granted.

Jared Hendrie, 27, was charged in December 2018 as part of an Ontario child porn sweep called the Provincial Strategy to Protect Children from Sexual Abuse and Exploitation on the Internet.

At the beginning of the trial last month, Spratt argued that the “fundamental prerequisites were not met” for reasonable and probable grounds when a justice of the peace authorized a search of Hendrie’s Eleventh Street West home.

With that Charter challenge granted, it means any evidence found by police during that search is inadmissible. The Instagram video that started the investigation was never found during the police investigation. With the prosecution left with no evidence, Crown attorney Simard moved to dismiss the charge.

Jared Hendrie’s family was in the gallery for the Thursday decision and cried at the news and hugged each other outside the courtroom.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, defence lawyer Michael Spratt says he is pleased with the result.

“Although we haven’t seen the written decision, I think it’s a safe assumption that the reason why the court granted that Charter motion was because the police did not have the legal authority to do what they did. That the search warrant should not have been granted,” Spratt said.

“Mr. Hendrie is very pleased that he has been found not guilty of these charges. Even if this application had not been granted and the trial proceeded to its natural conclusion, we have always been very confident that Mr. Hendrie would have been acquitted nonetheless because he, in these circumstance, did nothing wrong. He didn’t possess any illegal images,” he said.

Lesson for police

In his application, Spratt argued that the police made a “bald assertion” based on one video that was uploaded to Instagram in April 2018. Cornwall police didn’t carry out their search until seven months later after the information had passed through several American and Canadian police agencies.

Spratt told Cornwall Newswatch the pace of the investigation by Canadian authorities was “shocking” and there is a lesson for police.

“Evidence, unlike a fine wine, doesn’t get better with age. The police have to realize, the longer they take to investigate, the longer they take to collect evidence, that does damage to the justice system. It can cause innocent people to be brought before our courts and that’s what happened here. Mr. Hendrie, who is innocent, who did nothing wrong, found himself entangled in a legal situation in part because of that delay.”

Spratt said there’s no explanation for how the illegal pornographic video ended up on an Instagram account tied to Hendrie’s email, though Spratt said his client has been “clear and unequivocal” from the day he was arrested that he did not intentionally possess or upload any images.

The court has released the March 5 court date for when the trail was to have continued.