An Abbotsford man applied to overturn his guilty pleas in a drug-trafficking case, saying he hadn’t been given information in advance that three of the investigating officers had been the subject of disciplinary action.
But B.C. Supreme Court Justice Paul Riley upheld the guilty pleas of Herman Sidhu, 28, in a ruling made late last month.
Sidhu was among three people arrested and charged in November 2015 after search warrants were executed at homes on Curlew Drive and Summit Drive in Abbotsford.
At the time, police said the arrests were part of the Townline Hill conflict. (They later began referring to it as the more wide-ranging Lower Mainland gang conflict.)
Police seized two pounds of MDMA (ecstasy), 26 ounces of cocaine and a small amount of heroin from the two homes. They said the drugs had an estimated street value of $70,000.
Investigators also seized drug paraphernalia, $6,000 cash and two vehicles.
Sidhu pleaded guilty in September 2017 to three of the 13 counts that he initially faced of trafficking in a controlled substance.
He was scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 8, 2018 in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack, but three days before that, the Crown sent a letter to Sidhu’s lawyer, advising that three of the investigating officers in the case had been the subject of disciplinary action, according to court documents.
One of the officers was disciplined for failing to make notes of his involvement in two separate strip searches in 2013 not related to Sidhu’s case.
The man was as an undercover officer in four of the five drug transactions with Sidhu. In two of those instances, he was the only officer involved.
Another officer was facing charges of criminal harassment, uttering threats, unlawful confinement and assault in connection with a domestic incident.
That individual had been involved in a tracking warrant for a car driven by Sidhu and a search warrant for a home that resulted in the seizure of a small quantity of drugs and paraphernalia in November 2017. But Crown advised it would not be using that evidence in court.
The third officer had been disciplined by receiving training in the use of force and disorder offences in connection with two separate incidents five to seven years earlier. But Crown said the individual would not be a witness in court.
Crown counsel later confirmed in writing that they would not provide any further information to the defence, such as the underlying records or reports related to the misconduct.
Sidhu’s lawyer applied to have the guilty pleas set aside on the basis that Sidhu did not have all the information about the case against him when he decided to plead guilty.
“If he knew that material was being withheld with respect to the disciplinary records of the police officers in the investigation, then he would have instructed his lawyer to actively pursue those materials and bring necessary court applications to compel their disclosure or production,” the affidavit stated.
However, Justice Riley noted that in the 12 months since Sidhu and his lawyer received the Crown’s letter, they had made no efforts, through a court application, to pursue the underlying records.
Riley also said that the impact on Sidhu’s case of the undercover officer’s misconduct – not taking proper notes in two strip searches – was “objectively minimal.”
And because the evidence of the other two officers was not being used in court, that, too, was not relevant to his guilty pleas, Riley said.
He ruled that Sidhu was not prejudiced by the initial non-disclosure of the officers’ misconduct and his guilty pleas will stand.
Sidhu and co-accused Bhavdeep Deol, who previously pleaded guilty to two drug-trafficking charges, are next due in court on Feb. 11 to set a date for sentencing.
Charges have been stayed against David Elliott, the third man arrested at the same time as Sidhu and Deol.