The Ontario Provincial Police will be texting 7,500 cellphone users who were in the vicinity of a murder victim last December, hoping someone can offer information to help solve the cold case.
But legal experts say the police may be on shaky legal ground if the text canvass produces any evidence, and that there are no clear rules about what happens to the data once the investigation wraps.
Michael Spratt, a partner at Abergel Goldstein and Partners law firm in Ottawa, says if the text canvass produces any fruitful information, police may find it’s not admissible in court.
“There is some concern here because police aren’t permitted to engage in groundless fishing expeditions… There has to be reasonable grounds to believe the information being sought will afford evidence of an offence.”
He said it’s clear from what investigators have said publicly in this case that they have “no idea” what this technique could produce.
“They may be on constitutionally shaky ground because this seems like a fishing expedition for digital information.”
Forcing a phone carrier to release information is much different than knocking on a door during a canvass, Spratt said.
“This is akin to knocking on everyone’s door and then looking in their mailboxes and opening their mail to see if there is anything of use.”
Read Meredith MacLeod and Graham Slaughter’s full article: CTV News