Evidence, Undercover Operations, Mr. Big
The Supreme Court of Canada released its decision of R v Hart in July of 2014. The decision provided a two-prong framework for assessing the admissibility of confessions obtained through the undercover police tactic known as “Mr. Big”. The goal of the framework was to address reliability concerns, to protect suspects from state abuse, and to reduce the risk of wrongful convictions. The first prong of the test created a new common law evidentiary rule, under which Mr. Big obtained confessions are now presumptively inadmissible. The second prong revamped the existing abuse of process doctrine.
In this article, the authors review the last five years of judicial application of the new Hart framework. In total, all 61 cases that applied Hart were analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively, looking at whether the goals of the Hart framework have been met, what effect the framework has had on the admissibility of Mr. Big obtained confessions, and what, if any, shortcomings the framework has. The authors argue that the flexibility and discretion built into the Hart framework have resulted in an inconsistent application of the two-prong test. In the end, the framework has had a negligible impact on the number of confessions that are admitted.
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Adelina Iftene & Vanessa L Kinnear, “Mr. Big and the New Common Law Confessions Rule: Five Years in Review” (2020) 43:3 Man LJ 295.