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Keep police hands off suspects’ cellphones, defence lawyer argues

A BlackBerry 10 smartphone device.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

A defence lawyer has told B.C.'s highest court that police should be forced to get the permission of a judge before searching a suspect's cellphone after an arrest.

The B.C. Appeal Court case, involving a kidnapping that happened nearly eight years ago, is the latest to consider when police should be able to search the vast amounts of private data stored on smartphones.

Rajan Singh Mann was convicted two years ago of a June 2006 kidnapping, and the verdict partly relied on text messages recovered from a BlackBerry seized when he was arrested.

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Mann's lawyer, Peter Wilson, has told the B.C. Court of Appeal that police were wrong to assume they could send the phone for forensic examination simply because it was seized during an arrest.

Wilson says smartphones can hold large amounts of private information, and because of that police should require special authorization before examining their contents.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in a separate case last year that special authorization is needed to search computers during the execution of a search warrant, while the top court is hearing another case related to cellphones seized during arrests in the spring.

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