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January 1995: The Mack and McLaughlin Cases -- A Syringe in the Shampoo

Mr. Mack and Mr. McLaughlin were charged with possession of an unauthorized item. The offence report in both cases read, "While a routine search of cell K010 was being conducted, a hypodermic syringe was found inside a bottle of Wella shampoo. This item was wrapped in plastic bread wrappers." Both prisoners pleaded not guilty. Mr. Mack’s case was dealt with first. Officer Henderson testified that she was doing a routine search and opened a bottle of shampoo. Inside the shampoo was a plastic wrapper containing a syringe with a needle in it. She further testified that the cell was double bunked and Mr. Mack and Mr. McLaughlin were the residents. She said that neither of the prisoners were present during the search but she did talk to Mr. Mack afterwards and he stated that the shampoo was not his. Mr. Fox asked her whether she was able to determine from what she observed which of the two prisoners the shampoo belonged to. She said there was no basis to make that determination. She also said that there were other bottles on the same shelf and that the prisoners seemed to have their toiletries all together on that shelf.

Mr. Mack, in his defence, started by saying that the full conversation the officer had with him after the discovery of the syringe was, "If one of you takes the charge we won’t charge the other." It was at that point that Mr. Mack said, "It’s not mine." Officer Henderson agreed that this was what was said. Mr. Mack testified that the bottle of shampoo in which the needle was discovered was institutionally issued and it was the practice in segregation to re-issue bottles of shampoo that had previously been issued to other prisoners and indeed had other prisoners’ names on the bottle. He went on to say that he did not use institutional shampoo and for the last seven years a medicated shampoo had been prescribed for him.

Mr. Mack then called Officer Perry to give evidence in his defence. Mr. Mack asked Officer Perry whether it was a common practice to re-issue shampoo bottles that had been previously issued to other prisoners. Officer Perry said that it was. Mr. Mack asked Officer Perry whether he had himself issued prisoners in segregation a bottle of shampoo which had previously been issued to other prisoners and which had that other prisoner’s name on it. Officer Perry acknowledged that he had done that. Mr. Mack then asked Officer Perry whether he searched those bottles before he re-issued them. Officer Perry said that he checked them out by looking into them. Mr. Mack asked if the bottle was full or half full would the officer notice whether there was a syringe in the bottle. Officer Perry replied that he might well miss that.

Mr. Fox then questioned Officer Perry if he could recall how long before the date of this particular search he had issued shampoo to the prisoners in this cell. Officer Perry said that it would have been several weeks before because the staff had gathered up all the plastic bottles after a prisoner had used them to start fires and they then had been re-issued. Mr. Fox said that he wanted to review the evidence and he would give judgement the next week.

Mr. McLaughlin’s case was then called and Officer Henderson gave the same evidence as she had in Mr. Mack’s case. Mr. McLaughlin testified that prior to this search he had been given a bottle of shampoo by Officer Perry that had another prisoner’s name on it. He also said that he used mainly the shampoo he bought from the canteen although he did use the institutional shampoo once or twice a week. He said he had no knowledge there was anything in this particular shampoo bottle. If he had realized there was something in it he would have made sure it was removed from his cell even if it belonged to another prisoner who was sharing his cell. He said that he was being recommended for a transfer to the RPC and there was no way he was going to allow anyone to jeopardize that. As in Mr. Mack’s case, Mr. Fox said that he was going to reserve his decision. The following week Mr. Fox found both prisoners not guilty on the grounds that the evidence established a reasonable doubt as to the prisoners’ knowledge of what was in the shampoo bottle.

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