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The Saskatchewan government wanted to seize a van used by a convicted copper thief, but the Court of Appeal dismissed the application.

A Saskatchewan man convicted of stealing copper won't lose the family van, the province's highest court has ruled.

The case is described in a Saskatchewan Court of Appeal decision recently published online.

The man, Aaron Tropeau, had used a Ford cargo van in 2012 and 2013 while he was taking copper wire and other copper material from three sites around Saskatoon. 

The victims in the case were the City of Saskatoon, a refrigeration business and an aviation company.

In one case, Tropeau was seen walking away from a truck with a bundle of copper in his arms. In another case, he cut through a fence and was seen leaving with several buckets full of copper wire.
 
After he pleaded guilty to theft under $5,000 and breaking and entering, Tropeau was sentenced to probation and 80 hours of community service.

The van was registered in the name of Tropeau's common-law wife, who wasn't convicted, but had been present during two of the copper thefts, court heard.

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Copper wire is typically stolen for its scrap value, police say.

The Saskatchewan government applied to seize the van under the Seizure of Criminal Property Act, saying it had been used for criminal activity.

Earlier this year, a Queen's Bench judge rejected the application, noting Tropeau needed the truck to earn an income hauling goods. 

The 2010 van was the couple's only asset of any significance, and its value far exceeded the copper that was stolen.

The judge also noted that Tropeau was in poor health, having spent time in hospital for necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating disease.

The Saskatchewan government took the case to the court of appeal, arguing it was important to deter crime, take away profit from crime and compensate victims.

However, in an Oct. 29 decision, an appeal court judge sided with the original judge and dismissed the government's application.

"The vehicle shall be returned to its owner," the decision said.