CP -- Police are sailing into the uncharted waters of privacy rights and computers after charging several people with downloading child pornography off the Internet.
Officers with the Ontario Provincial Police pornography crime unit refuse to reveal the techniques they use to build cases against people caught with stockpiles of child porn.
Defence lawyers and legal experts say constitutional issues surrounding the state's right to monitor a person's private computer will surface as the cases come to court.
"How are police getting access to what you are doing at your computer in your home?" asks defence lawyer Marie Henein. "It's a little frightening that you could be sitting at your computer at home, just as you could be on your phone talking to somebody, and the police can be assessing what you're doing. Our courts have gone a very long way to control the type of monitoring the police can do on phones."
Henein and prominent lawyer Eddie Greenspan represent Trevor Davis of Kirkland Lake. Davis was charged with distributing child pornography on the Internet after police seized 20,000 computer files containing photographs and video clips.
Other arrests by the pornography crime unit include:
"How does criminal law and the Charter (of Rights and Freedoms) fairly apply to a new medium of communication?" Butt asked.
Alan Young, a criminal lawyer and law professor at the University of Toronto's Osgoode Hall, said Canadians have a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their communications. That's one reason police need a court order to place a wiretap on a telephone.
At issue in the seizure cases will be whether police need a court order or search warrant before they eavesdrop on a person dabbling in cyberspace.
"One would safely assume the debate will revolve around the investigative techniques employed by police to uncover this material", Young said.
Det. Staff Sgt. Bob Matthews, manager of the pornography unit, is loath to say how his officers track and capture accused child pornographers.
"We should not have to reveal publicly exactly how we track these guys", said Matthews.
Henein said few people have sympathy for anyone charged with child pornography, but the cases raise other important questions.
"We have to be cautious and look at the broader implications of what the state is doing", she said. "It's a very serious intrusion that has to be looked at."