Mandel: Airbnb host to be sued for voyeurism

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Peeping Tom will be prosecuted against an accused Airbnb.

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Michael Chow was accused of voyeurism in 2018 during the Toronto International Film Festival after a surprised Vancouver man discovered a hidden camera in the luxury condo he had rented for 10 days.

Chow, though, both the trial judge and the appeals judge agreed that Toronto police had violated her privacy when they entered the condo at the tenant’s invitation and seized the hidden camera without a warrant.

They threw away the evidence and without the camera clock there was no case.

But in a ruling released Tuesday, Ontario’s highest court found those judges were wrong. They set aside Chow’s acquittal and ordered a new trial after ruling he had no reasonable expectation of privacy after renting the place to a stranger.

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“There was no expectation of privacy at all,” wrote Justice Grant Huscroft on behalf of the three-judge panel.

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“A reasonable person in (Chow’s) place would expect that the complainant is entitled to call the police if he believes a crime has been committed against him in the apartment and would expect the complainant to call the police at the apartment.” I will invite for investigation. However, during the relevant time it was the home of the complainant.

Rob Wallenberg booked a Victoria St. luxury condo on Airbnb and checked in on September 6, 2018, never picturing what he was looking for.

On September 7, as the light of the bedside clock disturbed his sleep, Wallenberg moved his camera bag in front of him.

Toronto Airbnb Listing Where A Guest Found A Hidden Camera Inside A Clock Radio Photo Courtesy Ctv
Toronto Airbnb Listing Where a Guest Found a Hidden Camera Inside a Clock Radio Photo Courtesy CTV

On the morning of September 9, she noticed that her bag had been removed from the watch and received a message from Chow that he was at the apartment and had left her some coupons. According to the warrant, the suspicious tenant examined the alarm clock and found a hidden camera inside.

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“I was very angry and then very scared,” Wallenberg told CTV Vancouver at the time.

She called Airbnb, which advised her to go to a hotel and call the police. According to their policy, hosts are required to disclose all security cameras and recording devices to their guests but “cameras are never allowed in bedrooms or bathrooms.”

Wallenberg let police into the condo and seized the watch camera. When they learned it contained a memory card, they obtained a warrant to search it—no video of Wallenberg was found, but there were files showing various people in the bedroom, including An unknown man was masturbating on the bed.

Chow was accused of voyeurism.

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He claimed that his rights were violated by the illegal search and seizure and the evidence had to be excluded. Lower courts agreed. “The police should know by now that they cannot take a citizen’s property out of his dwelling unit, even if it is an occasional dwelling unit,” the trial judge wrote.

The Crown appealed and lost.

The appeal judge found the police search of the apartment, seizure of the clock camera and checking the device for memory cards amounted to serious Charter violations, saying there was “absolutely no reason” why the police should have searched them. Warrant not obtained. start.

Not so, says Ontario’s highest court.

“It was not reasonably reasonable for (Chow) to expect that the complainant could not invite the police into the apartment to investigate a crime committed against him in the apartment. This is not a claim of privacy which should be constitutionally protected.

It was Wallenberg who allegedly violated his rights — and not the other way around.

mmandel@postmedia.com

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