There's No Place Like Home
Likely, British Columbia
June 8, 1991
Feeling safe in your own home is important. That's why Section 8 of the
Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees everyone the right
to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.
Unfortunately, home did not prove to be a safe place for Frank Boyle.
The elderly man was found beaten to death in his home at about 8:20 a.m.
When the police arrived at the scene, they noticed, among other things,
a pack of Sportsman cigarettes.
The hunt was on for his killer. The police soon found the victim's truck.
It had been stolen and involved in an accident. A witness told police
that she had seen a man, Michael Feeney, walking away from the truck at
around 6:45 that morning.
The police immediately went to Michael Feeney's trailer. An officer knocked
on the door and identified himself as a policeman. There was no answer.
The officer entered with his gun drawn and found Feeney sleeping. Blood
was splattered all over his clothes and a pack of Sportsman cigarettes
sat nearby. On the basis of this evidence, Feeney was arrested and later
convicted of 2nd degree murder.
The conviction would not stand.
Feeney's lawyer argued that the police had violated section 8 of the
Charter of Rights and Freedoms the right to be free from unreasonable
search and seizure. In their haste to find the killer, the police had
not taken the time to obtain a search warrant to enter the suspect's home.
The case went all the way to the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court of Canada Building
May 22, 1997
May 22nd, 1997 was Feeney's lucky day.
The Supreme Court of Canada found that the police should not have entered
the suspect's home without a search warrant. The government had argued
that the police didn't have time to get a warrant. The judges responded
that privacy rights demand that the police generally obtain prior judicial
authorization (a warrant) of entry into a dwelling place in order to arrest
a person. Although there could be exceptions to this rule, such as when
police are in hot pursuit or when someone calls 911, they found these
exceptions did not apply in this case.
The conviction was overturned and a new trial was ordered.
Canadians were furious! They demanded action. But what could Parliament
have done? Invoked the "not withstanding" clause (section 33)
which would have said that the charter no longer applied to people in
their homes when police needed to gather evidence?
Technology provided an answer. The Criminal Code was amended to permit
police to obtain a "telewarrant". From then on, police officers
would be able to get a warrant without having to appear before a court.
For Frank Boyle's family, this development was too little too late.
Want To Know More?
R. v. Feeney  2 S.C.R. 13