Illegible Police Notes

A number of recent cases have examined disclosure in the context of police notes; more specifically, in cases where the police notes have been illegible. This post is not meant to cite change in our note-taking ways, but rather to report the consequences should our handwriting be illegible. This is a brief summary of what the courts have decided:

R. v. Lalani [2014] O.J. No. 108 (O.C.J.):

“I disagree with Ms. Stackhouse’s characterization of the Crown’s disclosure obligation. The Crown has a duty to disclose to an accused “all relevant information” in its possession or under its control. … In order to discharge this duty the Crown is under an obligation to request and procure from the police all relevant information and material concerning the case. … As a result, in my view, the provision of a typed version of one of the investigative officer’s notes where that officer’s handwritten notes were illegible was more than simply a courtesy; it was part of the Crown’s disclosure obligation.”

R. v. Guzman [2014] O.J. No. 2946 (O.C.J.):

“I agree that if officer’s notes prove, objectively, to be illegible, the Crown has an obligation on the request of defence counsel to provide a typed version of those notes.”

And finally, the older case of R. v. Aquino [1999] O.J. No. 5972 (S.C.J.):

“… Illegible written information does not constitute disclosure.”

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