On March 6th, the British Columbia Court of Appeal held that an accused’s section 8 Charter rights were violated when his work computer was seized by the police without a warrant but allowed the admission of evidence from the computer because it would not bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
The case illustrates that the standard for finding an objective reasonable expectation of privacy on a work computer following the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R v Cole is very low. While the record in Cole weighed particularly in favor of an expectation of privacy finding, in this more recent case, the were no special facts. The employee (a school principal), for example, only used his work computer for browsing the internet. The Court nonetheless recognized a Charter-protected privacy interest.
Unfortunately, as in Cole, the record in this case did not appear to support any discussion of whether the computer was networked or the impact of the employer’s control over its network.
For an essay on what Cole means for employers, click here.