Man caught with ‘hot, steaming’ bucket of date-rape drugs loses appeal: ruling

Man caught with 'hot, steaming' bucket of date-rape drugs loses appeal: ruling
Photo credit: Nicholas Pescod

A man in Nanaimo who had a “steaming” hot bucket of date-rape drugs in his vehicle has lost his bid to overturn his conviction, says B.C.’s Court of Appeal.

According to a June 7 ruling, in the early morning of Dec. 12, 2020, a Nanaimo RCMP officer pulled over Justin Thomas Gary Donovan, who was driving a vehicle impounded a month earlier.

The Mountie ran the license plates on his computer and discovered that the vehicle had been impounded because the driver was prohibited from driving.

The officer then pulled over Donovan, who was still barred from getting behind the wheel.

Donovan, born in 1984, was placed under arrest. Police then searched the vehicle and found, among other things, “a hot, steaming liquid substance that proved to be GHB,” the ruling says.

GHB, or gamma-hydroxybutyrate, is a drug that has been “used in date rapes (sexual assaults),” the B.C. government says.

“GHB is a clear, odourless liquid that looks like water and so can be added to a beverage without the person knowing it. It may also be used in the form of a white powder.”

The drug “acts as a depressant, slowing and calming the activity of your nervous system,” adds Health Canada on its website.

The GHB was in a large orange bucket on the floor behind the driver’s seat. 

When the officer first lifted the lid, they were unsure what the liquid was but noted it was “emitting a strong chemical smell,” the ruling says.

It says fire crews were then called to the scene and confirmed the liquid was over 30 C.

During the search, police also found a propane tank, a propane burner, multiple cooking supplies, house-cleaning supplies, 4 kg of lye, two funnels, and distilled water. A later search turned up a package of methamphetamine.

The ruling says the officer later returned to the vehicle “and was able to obtain confirmation that the substance in the orange bucket was GHB.”

It states the GHB “was ready for sale.”

Appeal dismissed: judge

Donovan was charged with two counts of unlawful possession of a controlled substance (GHB and meth) for the purpose of trafficking.

The new ruling says his trial “consisted primarily of two voir dires into the admissibility of the evidence: one concerning the evidence found in the car and a second concerning the expert report.”

It adds, “The judge concluded that all of the evidence was admissible, and convicted the appellant on both counts.”

Donovan’s appeal was heard at an April 18 hearing in Victoria, while the judgement was later handed down on June 7 in Vancouver.

Among other things, the appellant argues that the controlled substances were discovered during a search that should not have yielded evidence admissible in a criminal proceeding, while he was improperly detained,” the ruling says.

In his decision, Justice J. Christopher Grauer dismissed the appeal, saying “the search was conducted pursuant to statutory authority and was reasonable.”

Justices Newbury and Abrioux were also on the three-judge panel.

“The appellant is not permitted to advance new arguments concerning his arrest and detention on appeal in the face of strategic concessions made at trial,” the ruling adds.

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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