BRITISH COLUMBIA

Ex-Mountie pleads guilty for breaching search-warrant law over missing laptop

01/18/2013 04:39 EST | Updated 03/20/2013 05:12 EDT
CRANBROOK, B.C. - A former RCMP officer from southeastern British Columbia pleaded guilty Friday to a charge related to improperly seizing property and was handed a $500 fine in a case involving a missing laptop.

Bryden Hennessey stepped down from the RCMP in January 2012 when he was charged with theft after a laptop he seized while on official RCMP duty disappeared.

An RCMP investigation revealed that Hennessey seized the laptop, but it was never turned in as evidence.

Hennessey instead pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of breaching the Offence Act and was sentenced to pay a $500 fine.

The act states: "A person who executes a warrant may seize, in addition to the things mentioned in the warrant, anything that on reasonable grounds the person believes has been obtained by, or has been used in, the commission of an offence."

However, Hennessey did not properly follow the act when he failed to return the item to the person it was seized from or bring the item to a justice to be dealt with, court heard.

On August 6, 2011, Hennessey was called to a local pawn shop after the owner contacted the RCMP to report a possible stolen laptop, Crown counsel Philip Seagram told provincial court.

When Hennessey couldn't find any reports that the laptop was stolen, he still took the computer, telling the pawn shop owner it would be examined by more computer-savvy officers.

The computer was pawned for $100 and was to be resold for $140. Hennessey left with the laptop and power cord.

A few days later, now-retired Cpl. Chris Faulkner attended the pawn shop on an unrelated matter, and the owner asked about the laptop.

Faulkner later checked the RCMP's computer system and discovered the file in the case indicated no property had been seized. The pawn shop owner then showed Faulkner a video surveillance tape that captured the seizure.

Hennessey's fellow officers on duty that day all reported not seeing a laptop. The shift supervisor on duty that day said when he asked Hennessey if any property had been seized, Hennessey said no.

Hennessey's lawyer, Duncan Smith, confirmed those details, but told the court this a case of an officer not logging evidence properly. Smith said Hennessey had planned to take the laptop back to the detachment to deliver to more experienced officers, but he did not follow proper protocol for entering evidence.

"What we have here is good intentions, which led him down an unfortunate path," Smith said.

The item should have been entered into the evidence locker, but Smith said Hennessey did not log the computer because he was dealing with the break down of his marriage at home, and "his mind was elsewhere."

Smith said that by not following the proper protocols, "this laptop went astray."

The RCMP offered $140 in restitution to the pawn shop for the value of the laptop. Hennessey paid that amount back to the detachment on Friday.

It's still not clear what happened to the computer.

Hennessey attended RCMP training in Regina in August of 2001 and was posted to Cranbrook in 2007.