Friday, March 17, 2017

Confession Rule does not apply to Charter Voir Dire

R. v. Paterson, 2017 SCC 15:

The confessions rule should not be expanded to apply to statements tendered in the context of a voir dire under the Charter . The Crown must prove the voluntariness of an accused's statement before it can rely upon that statement at trial as supporting a finding of guilt. The purpose of the judicial inquiry in a Charter voir dire is distinct from the purpose of a criminal trial. A criminal trial is concerned with determining whether the accused is guilty of an offence. In a Charter voir dire, however, the focus is not on the accused's guilt, but on whether the accused's constitutional rights were infringed. A Charter voir dire thereforeinvolves a review of the totality of the circumstances known to, and relied upon, by the state actor at the time of the impugned action. Only the state actor's contemporary state of mind and conduct is at issue, and not the truthfulness of the statement upon which he or she relied. It is for this reason that the truthfulness of a statement has no bearing upon its admissibility; rather, the inquiry is focussed upon whether it was reasonable for the state actor to rely upon the statement as forming grounds for the action under scrutiny. Admitting a statement by an accused for the purpose of assessing the constitutionality of state action, as opposed to the purpose of determining the accused's guilt, does not engage the rationale for the confessions rule. To apply the confessions rule to evidence presented at a Charter voir dire would distort both the rule and its rationale. It would stifle police investigations, compromise public safety and needlessly lengthen and complicate voir dire proceedings. 

Of the Law Societies of Upper Canada and Nunavut 

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