Charges Dismissed Against Durham Area Farmer
Charges of theft and mischief against Michael Schmidt have been dismissed.
The Durham area dairy farmer was in court for the verdict after a two day trial in July.
The charges related to the discovery of two surveillance cameras in the ditch near Schmidt’s farm in July 2015. The Ministry of Natural Resources admitted to setting up the cameras.
They were removed from the ditch but not immediately returned to the ministry.
In dismissing the charges, Justice K. McHugh said the Crown didn’t meet the necessary burden of proof that Schmidt’s intentions were criminal or fraudulent.
Schmidt is satisfied with the result.
“I think it’s fair to say he did his research and I’m satisfied with what he came up with. He basically narrowed it really to the mens rea and criminal intent and I think he got it right,” said Schmidt in an interview after the verdict.
Evidence during the trail showed Schmidt phoned West Grey police soon after he found the cameras to report their discovery. He wanted to know who to return them to. Not getting an answer, the cameras remained in his control for several weeks. He was then charged with theft and mischief.
Schmidt says West Grey police have compromised public confidence.
“Do you think I phone the police again when I find something like that? The majority of people have told me I should have taken a gun and shoot these cameras. So how do you establish a proper relationship with the police force that it can be a community partner,” he says.
West Grey police declined to comment.
The cameras were eventually returned with the memory cards erased.
Schmidt sees the whole thing as another chapter in his more than 20-year fight with the authorities over his raw milk operation. He facilitates access to unpasteurized milk products to people who want them.