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Justice

Statement by Łútsël K’é chief will be allowed as evidence at trial


A Territorial Court judge has ruled that a statement the Chief of the Łútsël K’é Dene First Nation made to an arresting officer will be allowed as evidence during his trial next month.

Chief Darryl Marlowe has pleaded not guilty to two impaired driving charges in relation to an incident involving a snowmobile in Łútsël K’é on January 3, 2021, which resulted in Marlowe being medevaced to Yellowknife.

A two-day trial on the matter is set to take place in Łútsël K’é beginning on May 11.

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Marlowe’s lawyer, Paul Falvo, recently argued an “utterance” his client made to the RCMP officer who arrested him in January 2021 should not be allowed as evidence at that trial. 

Marlowe was originally arrested and charged only with assault while RCMP continued to investigate the incident. Assault charges against Marlowe have since been stayed by the Crown. 

According to testimony by Cpl Harland Venema, former commanding officer of the Łútsël K’é RCMP detachment, police were waiting for medical records on Marlowe’s blood alcohol level when he was arrested for assault.

Venema said on that day, he was working on release paperwork for Marlowe when the chief, who was waiting in the detachment lobby, made a voluntary statement regarding his involvement in the snowmobile accident. Venema said he did not intend to take a statement from Marlowe regarding the incident and did not have his notebook on him at the time. He said he recorded the statement shortly afterward on a computer in his office. 

Marlowe, however, disputed the wording of the statement as recorded by Venema.

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Falvo argued the “utterance” should not be allowed as evidence at trial due to the discrepancy over the wording, and as Venema did not tell Marlowe police were continuing to investigate. Falvo said use of the statement would violate Marlowe’s Charter right to a fair trial.

Delivering her decision on the matter on Friday afternoon, Judge Jeannie Scott disagreed. She said Marlowe had given the statement voluntarily and there was no evidence of threats or intimidation on the part of police. She said Venema was not obligated to tell Marlowe about the ongoing investigation and that he had properly warned and cautioned Marlowe about his arrest for assault.

Scott added there is a difference between the authenticity and admissibility of evidence. She said it will be left to trial to determine the reliability of the statement as recorded by Venema and how much weight it will be given as evidence.

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