A past prolific offender arrested in Langley after a major surveillance operation was acquitted on 11 charges recently, after a judge ruled his Charter rights were violated by a tracking warrant.
Matthew Sidney Soper had been charged with 11 criminal counts, including breaking and entering, thefts, possession of stolen property, and mischief, related to incidents in October and November 2020.
Soper was arrested on Dec. 1, 2020, at a Langley Days Inn where a group of police, including members of the Surrey RCMP’s Property Crime Target Team and members of the Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team (IMPACT) found Soper after spending the day following a stolen Ford Explorer.
They had traced the Explorer – taken earlier from Langley – on a winding path around the Lower Mainland, starting in Coquitlam and following it to Belcarra.
In Belcarra, a Kia Niro was stolen at the site of a residential break in, and the Explorer and Niro continued driving until they arrived in Langley, where the leader of the team ordered Soper and another man be arrested.
The team was able to keep tabs on the stolen Explorer all day because they had the authority to track the location of Soper’s cell phone.
An earlier investigation into the theft of a Jaguar in Delta had identified Soper as a suspect.
A Surrey RCMP officer asked a judge for a warrant to track the phone based on a fingerprint found on the Jaguar.
But Judge Mark Jetté ruled that the information in the warrant was faulty. The fingerprint was only a possible match to Soper, not a definite match. In addition, it was found on the outside of the Jaguar – but when the officer applied for the cell phone tracking warrant, he mistakenly wrote that the print was found inside the stolen car.
Jetté found that Soper’s Charter rights had been breached by the use of incorrect information to obtain the warrant.
This meant that everything resulting from the warrant had to be thrown out, including all the evidence gathered thanks to the tracking, which is what allowed police to follow Soper on the day of his arrest.
“This flawed process – which effectively gave police the authority to track a target on a near continuous basis over large distances to acquire grounds to make an arrest – undermined all that followed,” Jetté wrote.
Jetté issued the ruling on May 30. On June 7, Soper was acquitted of all 11 charges.
Soper has in the past been one of the Surrey RCMP’s “most wanted” auto crime offenders, and in 2016, Soper, then 30, pleaded guilty in Penticton to a number of charges. He’d been arrested while carrying a restricted, stolen handgun and was wearing a stolen Vancouver Police Department badge. He was sentenced to 57 months in jail.
Have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org