Trio acquitted due to what judge deems shoddy police work

RCMP from Barriere and Clearwater launched an investigation after two cars sped past a police vehicle on Highway 5

Tim Petruk – Kamloops This Week

Citing police work she said “defies any reasonable explanation,” a Kamloops judge has acquitted on all counts a trio of men facing more than a dozen firearm- and property-related charges.

William Hill, Mark Pauls and Andrew Shreenan were arrested on May 4 after being found hiding beneath fallen trees in a wooded area near Little Fort, a community an hour north of Kamloops on Highway 5 North.

The three men had been in custody since their arrest.

During a B.C. Supreme Court trial in December, court heard Mounties from Barriere and Clearwater launched an investigation after two cars sped past a police vehicle on Highway 5 North near Little Fort and took off at speeds reaching 150 km/h.

Police lost track of the vehicles and officers began to look for them on logging roads and turnoffs.

About an hour later, an officer found two cars on a trail off a logging road. One of them was rammed by an unmarked RCMP SUV and three men — Hill, Pauls and Shreenan — ran from the vehicles into the woods.

When they were found, four hours later, the men were wet and shivering. It had been raining in the area, but they told police they were fishing when they fell out of a canoe and into a nearby lake.

In the vehicles, police found two shotguns — one of them stolen — ammunition, a white powder and drug paraphernalia.

Based on distinct clothing seen in a dash-cam recording, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Sheri Donegan found that the men were the same trio that fled police.

But she failed to convict them on any of the 14 charges they had been facing, based on the argument of defence lawyers Sheldon Tate, Brad Smith and Eric Rines.

Donegan said she suspects the men were guilty, but she could not convict them because of sloppy police work.

“None of the items were forensically tested,” Donegan said, adding that the white powder was also never analyzed to determine if it was a drug. “In a procedure that defies any reasonable explanation, the police officers removed items [from the vehicles] and placed them on the grass and dirt outside the Clearwater [RCMP] detachment to photograph them.”

Donegan noted the shotguns were never tested for fingerprints or DNA, nor were various other items found in the vehicles.

Donegan said there is no evidence proving any of the men had possession of anything in the vehicles or the vehicles themselves — one of which was stolen.

“Why none of these tests were performed has not been explained,” she said.

“Suspicion falls short of proof that is required. . . . There is no forensic evidence tying any of the three accused to the items.”