B.C. trucker acquitted of possessing 51 kilos of cocaine has civil suit tossed

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Gurdarshan Singh Hansra, who was acquitted of possessing 51 kilos of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, has had a civil lawsuit tossed out.

A B.C. trucker who was acquitted of possessing 51 kilograms of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking has had a lawsuit claiming he was defamed thrown out of court.

In March 2014, Gurdarshan Singh Hansra, who has been a long-haul trucker since 1993, was found not guilty of the criminal offence in Manitoba.

He and his co-driver had been hired to transport a shipment of products from Vancouver in a sealed truck to Brampton, Ont., but had been stopped by police during a routine traffic inspection on the Trans-Canada Highway near Winnipeg.

Police got permission to inspect the truck and discovered the drugs in the interior of the vehicle, resulting in Hansra and his co-driver being charged. But a court acquitted both men of all charges.

Hansra was involved in a motor vehicle accident in 2015 that resulted in a law firm representing the other driver sending letters to Hansra’s former or current employers containing questions pertaining to his employment. The letters asked whether the employers were aware of Hansra’s drug arrest but did not mention that he’d been found not guilty of the charges.

He filed a negligence claim, alleging the criminal charges had not been common knowledge within the South Asian trucking community, which he said was small and insular, and sensitive to allegations of drug trafficking.

Hansra claimed that the questions in the letters dealing with the issue of the charges amounted to defamatory statements. But the defendants, including the law firm and ICBC, applied to strike Hansra’s claim as having no reasonable prospect of success.

They acknowledged that the contents of the defamatory statements were delivered to 16 individuals associated with Hansra’s employment and then later published and filed in an affidavit in B.C. Supreme Court and accessible to the public.

But they argued that the lawsuit was bound to fail given the circumstances surrounding the publication of the material, which they claim were occasions covered by absolute privilege.

In his ruling on the application, B.C. Supreme Court Justice John Harvey agreed with the defendants that they were provided immunity against the claim based on the doctrine of absolute privilege. That doctrine provides protection against suits arising from statements made in court proceedings and communications made in the course of an inquiry with respect to, or in preparation for, those proceedings, noted the judge.

“In writing to the former employers of the plaintiff, the law firm was acting in the course of pursuing its client’s interest and thus is protected by absolute privilege,” Harvey said.