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Nanaimo drug dealer caught with 'steaming' bucket of GHB loses appeal

Justin Thomas Gary Donovan was arrested in 2020
B.C. Supreme Court and Court of Appeal in Vancouver

The B.C. Court of Appeal will not overturn the conviction of a drug dealer who was caught with a bucket of hot GHB in his car.

In December 2020, Justin Thomas Gary Donovan was pulled over by Nanaimo RCMP, who subsequently found that he was prohibited from driving and arrested him.

While searching his car, police found a bucket containing "a hot, steaming liquid substance" that proved to be GHB (4-hydroxybutanoic acid), a propane burner, cooking and house-cleaning supplies, four kilograms of lye, two funnels, and distilled water, as well as methamphetamine, noted the June 7 ruling from the three-judge panel.

Donovan was charged with two counts of unlawful possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking, noted the ruling, and during trial argued against evidence admissibility, citing police had asked a question that could lead to "self-incrimination," the ruling detailed. In addition, Donovan thought the vehicle search and seizure were "unreasonable." The admissibility of evidence was debated during trial via two voir dire hearings and an expert report from Crown counsel. 

The trial judge allowed the evidence and found Donovan guilty on all counts. The dealer filed the appeal arguing that "while it may have been lawful for the police to undertake an inventory search of the vehicle prior to impounding it … it was contrary to the charter for the evidence they found to be admitted and then used against him in a criminal proceeding."

The guilty man thought he was "over-arrested," as the judge "failed to consider the manner of [his] arrest, which, he submits, far exceeded what was justified for the charge of driving while prohibited." He stated the judge made a mistake in attributing knowledge of the illicit substances, their amounts and possession to him.

In response, Crown said it wasn't for Donovan to question the manner of his arrest, as the issue wasn't broached during trial.

In his decision, Justice J. Christopher Grauer stated that the evidence was admissible as the trial judge properly found that the police search was allowable by law and did not violate charter rights.

While the court said the appellant had the right to question whether the trial judge made a mistake as to whether the drugs were in the appellant's possession, he "failed to establish any error." 

Along with Grauer, the panel consisted of justices Mary V. Newbury and Patrice Abrioux.

The appeal was heard April 18 in Victoria and the judgment came down Friday, June 7 in Vancouver.

Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

I joined Black Press in 2010 and cover education, court and RDN. I am a Ma Murray and CCNA award winner.
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