A Maple Ridge, B.C., councillor who put his own safety on the line to apprehend a break-and-enter suspect is upset with police over how they handled the incident.
Ahmed Yousef said on Nov. 8, he caught a man on his property, where his home is undergoing extensive renovations, and behind a metal fence.
He had previously discovered a lock on his shed had been cut.
“I was in the basement cleaning up and working on the place,” Yousef told Global News.
“And oddly, I heard footsteps upstairs. No one was supposed to be on the property, not my contractor and no members of my family. So I stayed quiet to try to figure out who it was. Sure enough, a person starts to come down the stairs.”
He said the person then turned towards the exterior door to exit into the backyard.
“I realized that this is not someone who should be on my property,” Yousef said.
“I told them to stop and to get on the ground while I contacted the police, told them that I was placing him under citizen’s arrest for intruding, ultimately breaking and entering as per the definition of the Criminal Code. I called 911. They stayed on the line with me and within minutes the Ridge Meadows RCMP commendably were here.”
Yousef said he also took pictures of the suspect while he held him down for police to arrive.
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He said when the police arrived, he heard one of the officers telling the suspect that they are placing him under arrest for breaking and entering.
He said the suspect told the officer he didn’t break anything, but the officer explained that being on someone’s property uninvited is breaking and entering.
“The officer was, you know, very realistic in tempering my expectations by telling me that most probably Crown counsel will not pursue charges,” Yousef said.
“I was baffled as, again, per the Criminal Code, this is the definition of breaking and entering. But he was released on scene. The person was able to get onto his bicycle and ride away from my front door.”
Yousef said he was extremely disappointed to see that happen.
“I came to Canada in 2010 with my family so we can live in a country that all obeys and respects the rule of law, where laws are equally and consistently applied to citizens, unlike many of the other countries where I lived, where your socioeconomic status or the family that you come from determine whether you’re able to be prosecuted or not,” he said.
“And to see this happening right here in my neighbourhood at my home was again severely disappointing.”
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Rob Dhanu, co-founder of the Dhanu Dhaliwal Law Group, and a former Crown prosecutor told Global News that police and Crown are always going to consider two factors when it comes to charging someone.
“The first factor is whether they have enough evidence to successfully prove the offence,” Dhanu said. “If it were able to go to trial in a court of law.
“The second factor that police and Crown are going to consider is whether it’s in the public interest to prosecute this individual. Here’s where it gets a little more grey or perhaps even a lot more grey.”
Dhanu explained that in this case there is no way to prove the suspect cut the lock on Yousef’s shed and it could have been cut by someone else.
Second, Dhanu said it appears this person did not actually take anything from Yousef’s property.
“So at this stage, the officer’s thinking, ‘How serious is this crime, then?’ If we’re missing those two factors, I may be able to prove the B&E, but it may not be as serious as it ought to be for me to actually take this thing to court.”
Dhanu said he understands Yousef’s frustration but it doesn’t mean the officer made the wrong decision.
“They have to determine which crimes are most serious, which crimes that they ought to pursue to the end,” he added. “And if that means going to trial, they should take it to that stage.
“We don’t want officers who don’t use their discretion and just arrest everyone.”
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In a statement, Ridge Meadows RCMP said police are not considering charges at this time against the suspect.
“Police were contacted by the owner of the property who located the unknown person on their property. Police attended and the person was removed without incident,” the statement read.
“This investigation is concluded and charges are not being considered at this time.”
Yousef is frustrated by the entire experience and said it speaks to B.C.’s justice system as a whole.
“The dysfunction of that system, the fact that we no longer have deterrence against criminal activity, the fact that we’re rewarding bad behaviour by allowing someone to break into someone’s house, possibly, allegedly stealing some property and then being able to go home,” he said.
“At the end of the day, his identity is protected. You can’t show his face, you can’t tell his name. But yet my name and my face are out there. So who are we serving, the victim or the criminal, ultimately?”
He said he would like to see more criminals prosecuted for their crimes, regardless of whether they threaten people or property.
“We need to have that deterrent. We need to have restorative justice so people are held accountable. We need to have equal and consistent application of the law,” he said.
“Whether you have a fixed address or not, whether you have property or not, that is irrelevant. If you break the law, you’re breaking the law. These are the basic rules and under which we all live as Canadians.”