Temitope Dare, Erhard Haniffa, Muhammad Jaffer and Cory Ramelson were among more than 100 individuals arrested by the York Regional Police in 2017, as part of a multi-year investigation into child sex trafficking.
The investigation, titled “Project Raphael,” began in 2014 and targeted individuals searching online to have sex with children. Undercover police officers posed as sex workers on backpage.com and, after agreeing to provide sexual services, revealed themselves to be underage. The investigation was the first of its kind in Ontario.
In order for an investigation to be considered bona fide, the police must demonstrate they had “reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was occurring in space defined with sufficient precision.”
Ramelson argued he was induced to commit a crime by the police and the “bait and switch” of announcing the age late in the interaction raised “clear entrapment concerns.” Ramelson also argued the website was too broad a space to support reasonable suspicion.
“Some of the most pernicious crimes are the hardest to investigate,” said Justice Andromache Karakatsanis of the Supreme Court of Canada Thursday. “To draw those crimes into the open, the police, acting undercover, sometimes create occasions for people to commit the very crimes they seek to prevent. Done properly, such techniques may cast new light on covert offending, unveiling harms that would otherwise go unpunished.”
Privacy concerns were also acknowledged in the ruling, with consideration of the need to protect privacy interests from state overreach, but balancing that with “the state’s legitimate interest in investigating and prosecuting crime.”
All four men appealed their cases to the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2021, and to the Supreme Court of Canada in spring of 2022. Thursday’s judgment to reject the appeals was unanimous by all nine judges.