‘I feel vindicated’: Durham police didn’t stage break-in to set up drug suspect, judge rules

A judge has rejected an allegation that Durham police staged a break-in that led to drug charges against a Markham man.

It makes no sense that Durham drug officers, including veteran detective Cyril Gillis, would put their professional and personal lives on the line by committing a crime to advance an investigation, Superior Court Justice Michelle Fuerst said in a ruling released July 3.


An operation by Durham police dubbed Project Gladiator concluded in November of 2011 with more than 30 arrests, including that of Brett Dunstan.  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star)
“I accept the testimony of Detective Gillis that he would never commit a criminal act to move an investigation forward,” Fuerst wrote in her decision, rejecting a motion by Brett Dunstan that evidence against him, including large quantities of cocaine and marijuana seized from his home, be ruled inadmissible at trial.

The judge’s findings were hailed by Gillis, a 20-year member of the Durham police who is now an inspector.

“I feel vindicated,” he said. “The accused made a snake oil pitch to the court. He attempted to besmirch my character and my reputation.”

“The court didn’t buy it and the truth came out,” Gillis said.

Read more:

New trial granted following judge’s refusal to allow in-court voice recording

The ruling follows a court odyssey that saw Dunstan’s 2015 conviction for drug offences overturned by the Ontario Court of Appeal, which ruled his lawyer ought to have been allowed to more thoroughly pursue a theory that Durham police kicked in the door of his Markham home then tipped off York Regional Police in hopes they’d discover the dope stashed there.

Dunstan, an associate of suspects being investigated by Durham police during an operation dubbed Project Gladiator, was arrested after York police responded to an anonymous caller reporting a break-in in the early morning hours of Sept. 20, 2011. The police found evidence of drug activity and obtained a warrant, seizing drugs, including 43 pounds of marijuana and almost five kilos of cocaine.

At his first trial, Dunstan’s lawyer put forth a theory that Durham police had staged the break-in and that Gillis was the person who made the anonymous call to York police. A judge dismissed the Charter application and the trial proceeded, resulting in a conviction and an eight-year sentence for Dunstan.

When the new trial ordered by the Court of Appeal began in Newmarket this year, Fuerst heard Dunstan’s application to exclude the drug evidence on the basis of a breach of his Charter rights.

Fuerst concluded the defence had failed to prove its theory that police set Dunstan up, finding evidence from experts who testified on speech patterns unreliable and in one instance, concluding a defence expert was “not an objective, unbiased witness.”

Some of that witness’s conclusions, which did not support the theory that Gillis was the anonymous caller, were not disclosed to the Crown, Fuerst noted.

The judge noted that Dunstan, a peripheral character in Project Gladiator, was not critical to the success of the investigation. Although the project had suffered setbacks, such as when one key player discovered a tracking device planted by police, “the Gladiator project was not in trouble,” Fuerst assured.

The project concluded in November of 2011 with more than 30 arrests, the ruling notes.

The judge also found it unlikely that Gillis and the other officers would place themselves in legal and professional jeopardy by employing “maverick” techniques as alleged by Dunstan.

“I do not accept … that Gillis would put his career and potentially his liberty at risk by committing the serious offences of break and enter, obstruct police and obstruct justice for the sake of trying to advance a single drug operation,” Fuerst wrote.

A more likely scenario is that Dunstan was targeted by other players in the drug trade, said Fuerst.

The matter returns to court in Newmarket on July 20.



Another delusional judge who thinks its impossible for cops to fabricate evidence.

Justice Michelle Fuerst has a long record of believing these sorts of stories as do most other judges which encourage rotten cops like Det. Peter Van Der Zander of the Ottawa Police to fabricate evidence and get away with it, when even the judges KNOW he is a "rotten cop".


Ottawa Mens Centre.com