An eastern Ontario man is suing his township and a private company hired to conduct bylaw enforcement after he claims the private investigator trespassed to gather evidence during a house party.
Terry Thomson of McNab/Braeside Township says he was hosting a party at his house on June 22, 2012, when he believes two investigators with Municipal Law Enforcement Services (M.L.E.S.) violated his Charter protection against “unreasonable search and seizure.”
Thomson charged $10 for guests who entered the property on Mill Ridge Road near Arnprior, Ont., but the township said they told him charging guests violated their bylaw and he did not heed the warning.
About 150 people showed up, including one plain-clothed bylaw officer with M.L.E.S., according to Thomson’s statement of claim — the other officer was off the property and out of plain sight.
The claim also states one officer said he was a “partygoer” and allegedly spent one hour gathering evidence that was later used against Thomson.
Thomson was fined more than $1,300 in July of 2012 for using his property as a recreational vehicle campground and a commercial concert venue. The first charge was dropped and the second was upheld in a Renfrew, Ont., provincial offences courtroom.
Thomson then appealed the verdict based on his Charter concern, but his complaint was dismissed because he had not raised the issue during the first trial.
“I don’t like people sneaking around on my property. These guys are over-stepping their boundaries,” Thomson told the CBC’s Ashley Burke.
Ontario Planning Act at issue, lawyer claims
Planning Act: Power of entry
49: Entry and inspection where warrant required:
(3) Except under the authority of a search warrant issued under section 49.1, an officer or any person acting under his or her instructions shall not enter any room or place actually used as a dwelling without requesting and obtaining the consent of the occupier, first having informed the occupier that the right of entry may be refused and entry made only under the authority of a search warrant.
Thomson’s lawyer, Kurtis Andrews, claimed the bylaw officers went beyond their powers under the Ontario Planning Act because they “did not produce identification, deliberately concealed their identities and operated under some sort of covert, undercover operation.”
None of the allegations against M.L.E.S. have been proven in court.
Beginning in 2007, M.L.E.S., owned and operated by retired Ontario Provincial Police officer Jim McBain, has been contracted by six different townships for bylaw enforcement.
In a statement to CBC News, McBain said the officer followed all rules because the “general public” was permitted consented entry with the purchase of a $10 ticket.
“M.L.E.S. is confident that the investigative procedure and techniques utilized in this case are in accordance with the authority provided in the related zoning bylaw,” the statement read.
The mayor of McNab/Braeside said she could not comment on this specific case.
“I trust our bylaw officer to act appropriately,” said Mayor Mary M. Campbell.
“But I wasn’t there, I don’t have the training and I’m not appointed an officer of the court, so I don’t know what the perimeters are or if they were violated.”
Thomson said he would consider holding another party if he succeeds in court.