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EVIDENCE - Methods of proof - Circumstantial evidence

Monday, November 23, 2020 @ 9:19 AM  

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Appeal by MacDonald from his convictions for possession of cannabis and psilocybin for the purpose of trafficking and the forfeiture order of his commercial truck. The appellant, a long-haul truck driver, was arrested because of a tip received by the police. At the time, he was driving his truck, hauling a flatbed with crates secured under a tarpaulin after an across Canada trip. He was in possession of two bills of lading from Day & Ross that indicated he had a cargo of antique musical instruments. A search of the crates by police revealed 1,300 packages of marijuana with a total weight of 317 kilograms and three bags of psilocybin weighing 1,451 grams. The estimated street value of the marijuana was $600,000 to $1 million. The estimated street value of the psilocybin was $2,500 to $3,500. A handgun, three cellphones and two iPads were also found in the cab of the truck. One cellphone had a text message indicating the appellant was going to deliver the rest of the load. Walton, a Day & Ross employee, testified the bills of lading found in the appellant’s possession had several anomalies and that they had no record of any shipment that corresponded with them. She further testified Day & Ross did not have a current or past relationship with the appellant as a driver or broker.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The trial judge properly considered the totality of the circumstantial evidence in his analysis. The trial judge committed no legal error in his application of the law or his analysis of the evidence in finding the only reasonable inference was that the appellant knew he was transporting the drugs and was aware the bills of lading were false. He did not err in rejecting the appellant’s blind courier defence. There was ample support in the evidence to establish the appellant knew he was hauling illegal cargo under cover of phony documentation. The trial judge did not err in relying on Walton’s factual evidence and drawing inferences from it. He did not treat Walton’s evidence as opinion evidence. The trial judge did not misapprehend the text message evidence. The trial judge correctly determined the appellant’s truck was not real property and therefore not eligible to be exempted from forfeiture. The fact the appellant used his truck as sleeping quarters while he was on the road did not transform the truck into real property. The trial judge made no error in concluding forfeiture was mandated for the offence-related property.

R. v. MacDonald, [2020] N.S.J. No. 370, Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, M.J. Wood C.J.N.S., E. Van den Eynden and A.S. Derrick JJ.A., October 29, 2020. Digest No. TLD-November232020002