by BETTER FARMING STAFF
Wednesday was to be Ian Luckett’s day in court.
The horse farmer, who lives in Hillsburgh, was bringing a Charter of Rights challenge against the Ontario SPCA, citing illegal searches of a farm he rented on Highway 9 in Adjala-Tosorontio Township in November, 2008 and February, 2010. The searches were used to gather evidence that resulted in seizure of 32 Tennessee Walking Horses and 14 charges that Luckett wasn’t taking proper care of them.
Instead, in the Ontario Court of Justice in Barrie, Crown Attorney Carol Mitchell told Justice Grainne Forrest that the Crown was dropping all charges against the horse owner. “You are free to go,” Forrest told Luckett.
“There is no more venue for me to hear your application,” the Justice repeated to a protesting Luckett, who wanted to proceed, adding that she was able to hear a constitutional question only in the context of charges against a defendant. Replying to Luckett’s complaint that he had “incurred costs,” Justice Forrest said: “If it is purely a monetary issue it can go to a civil court.”
After the Justice left the courtroom, Mitchell told Luckett that she “just found out this morning” that a key witness, former OSPCA Orangeville and District Branch agent Sara Wilson, would not attend the hearing. There were three uniformed Ontario SPCA agents present in the courtroom.
Luckett, who was representing himself, says his costs include $10,665 paid on April 30, 2010 to get his horses back following an Animal Care Review Board hearing. Luckett called the fees for taking care of his horses after the SPCA seized them “ransom.”
Luckett also wanted to request the court to restrain the OSPCA from coming near himself, and his elementary school-aged son who was also in the courtroom. The Justice noted that she did not have the power to place a restraining order against the Ontario SPCA. “I do understand your frustration. I simply have no jurisdiction,” the Justice repeated.
Outside the courtroom, Luckett told a reporter that vehicles marked with Ontario SPCA emblems continue to park on the road near the farm where he keeps his horses. Luckett said he has warned agents not to trespass on his property.
Luckett said he is considering legal action against the Ontario SPCA to recover damages. He cited the case of eastern Ontario farmer he said is suing the OSPCA for $500,000 after charges that he wasn’t caring for his animals were stayed. “Half a million isn’t a lot of money,” Luckett said.
Agent Brad Dewar, the Ontario SPCA’s investigation communication officer, said “the decision was made by the Crown and we do respect that decision.”
Sara Wilson “is no longer with the organization. Under the Privacy Act, we can’t respond as to why she is no longer with the organization,” said Dewar. Charges that are “dropped” or “dismissed” can’t be reinstated. Charges that are “stayed” may be brought back later by authorities.BF