A Sydney man is facing commercial drug supply charges after being pulled over for using a mobile phone while driving.
26-year-old Neil Deep Roy of Hornsby was driving his Mitsubishi Outlander through Chinatown while speaking on his mobile phone.
Police saw and pulled him over near Thomas Street, Haymarket before allegedly forming a ‘suspicion on reasonable grounds’ that he had drugs in the car.
According to a police spokesperson, Mr Roy’s “… behaviour, mannerisms and certain other information” led police to “form… an opinion they had to search the vehicle”.
The search allegedly uncovered three kilograms of ice, which led police to quickly establish a taskforce resulting in the arrest of a second man, 30-year-old Chun Suk Kwok, for being involved in a drug supply syndicate. Mr Kwok was allegedly detained while walking down Canberra Street, St Johns Park, carrying a suitcase containing 10 kilograms of ice.
Police then searched a nearby home where $1.4 million was allegedly found stashed in the roof, as well as an amount of cannabis.
Another man, 21-year-old Emanuel Suleman, was then arrested and charged with ‘knowingly deal with proceeds of crime’ in addition to drug charges.
A total of 90 kilograms of ice was allegedly seized as a result of the operation, all triggered by the routine traffic stop.
Police are not permitted to search a person or vehicle arbitrarily.
Sections 21 (person) and 36 (vehicle) of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 require police to have a suspicion on reasonable grounds that one of the following state of affairs is present before a search can occur:
(a) the person or vehicle has anything stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained,
(b) the person or vehicle has anything used or intended to be used in or in connection with the commission of a relevant offence,
(c) the person or vehicle has a dangerous article that is being or was used in or in connection with the commission of a relevant offence,
(d) the person or vehicle has a prohibited plant or drug.
The meaning of ‘reasonable suspicion’ is explained in the leading case of R v Rondo:
(a) A reasonable suspicion involves less than a reasonable belief but more than a possibility, that the drugs were present at the particular time,
(b) Reasonable suspicion is not arbitrary. Some factual basis for the suspicion must be shown, and
(c) The source of the officer’s information and its content must be assessed in light of all surrounding circumstances.
In the event police search a person or car illegally, a court may exclude the evidence found as a result eg evidence of drugs or money, under the provisions of section 138 of the Evidence Act 1995.
Section 138 provides that illegally or improperly obtained evidence is liable to exclusion if the undesirability of admitting evidence derived in that way outweighs the desirability of admitting the evidence.
In making that determination, a court is required to weigh several competing factors, including the degree of misconduct by the police and the seriousness of the case (eg the nature of the charges).
In the case at hand, it appears the police did not go out of their way to commit an illegal act and the amount of drugs found was significant, so it is unlikely a court would exclude the evidence under section 138.
If, however, the case was one where police could not have formed a reasonable suspicion in accordance with the law and the amount of drugs located was small, the evidence of drugs may well have been excluded; resulting in the case being ‘thrown out of court’.
For more information about what amounts to ‘reasonable suspicion’, see our dedicated blogs: