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Judge rules search warrant OK in robbery, assault at Courtenay liquor store

First week of trial was spent discussing merits of video evidence that led to warrant
The merits of surveillance video evidence was up for debate in a case in Courtenay Supreme Court. Image, RCMP

The warrant that led to charges against a man for a robbery and attack at a Courtenay liquor store withstood a challenge from defence.

Dustin Bradley Perfitt is facing charges in Courtenay Supreme Court of aggravated assault and robbery for an incident in September 2020.

Most of last week’s trial was spent in a voir dire, as Perfitt’s lawyer, Doug Marion, was challenging video evidence that led to a search for other evidence, but on Monday Justice Barbara Norell delivered her ruling. While she took issue with some of the wording in the warrant, particularly around identification in certain surveillance videos, she ruled there were ample grounds for the warrant to conduct a search of the suspect’s residence.

“There’s no infringement of Mr. Perfitt’s Charter rights,” she said.

Following the decision, the trial was back in voir dire over a police interview.

Perfitt was arrested following a search for someone who robbed the Mex Pub’s liquor store on the evening of Sept. 18, 2020, and stabbed the store clerk.

RELATED STORY: Suspect arrested in stabbing, robbery at Courtenay liquor store

Marion had contested evidence obtained by police through a search warrant, arguing that the police investigation that led to the warrant was lacking in a number of respects.

During the voir dire, the evidence presented which eventually led to a search warrant surrounded a sequence of videos from surveillance cameras in the area, including the interior of the liquor store.

The videos depicted an individual, said to be Perfitt, leaving a nearby apartment complex, walking through parking lots toward the store, then entering the store to stab an employee and take cigarettes. The victim and another employee fled to a storage area to call police. Later video shows a person walking back across the same route and into the apartment building lobby.

The suspect’s face is not clearly visible, and Marion raised questions about video quality on a number of accounts, such as resolution, lighting and direction, as well as the continuity between videos. Most notably, the person at the apartment and the suspect are wearing some different clothing items. The police theory is the suspect changed clothing en route to the robbery.

Marion noted that while the person leaving the apartment is carrying a bag, there is no video of them changing clothes or even of what they are carrying.

“You can’t tell what’s inside that bag,” he said.

Marion pointed to video gaps in the route from the apartment to the store and raised questions about a couple of other suspects, including one from the Lake Cowichan area.

Crown counsel Tim Morgan defended the RCMP’s investigation that led to the search warrant.

“This was good police work,” he said.

He dismissed criticism the defence had with some of the videos, saying they could not each be viewed in isolation from the others. He noted the timeline between the different videos was sufficient to establish a sequence in which the accused left his apartment nearby, walked across the parking lot toward the liquor store, committed the alleged offences and returned home, with enough time to change clothes before and after the robbery.

Morgan also noted that the different threshold for evidence at a preliminary inquiry versus the actual trial, saying if this were a preliminary inquiry, the evidence should be sufficient to commit Perfitt to stand trial.

“It’s about reasonable, probable grounds,” he said.

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