Monthly Archives: March 2018

Prosper “Hold Off” Still Being Violated

Some agency-issued standard Charter/Caution cards or statement forms contain phrases that resemble: “You may be charged with … You are not obliged to say anything unless you wish to do so, but whatever you say may be given in evidence. Do you wish to say anything?

R. v. G.T.D. 2018 SCC 7 – as he was sitting in the back of a police car, following his arrest on an offence of sexual assault of a former intimate partner, the police officer read him his rights. When the officer asked if he wanted to speak with a lawyer, he said: “Uh, yes.” The officer then said: “You may be charged with sexual assault. You are not obliged to say anything unless you wish to do so, but whatever you say may be given in evidence. Do you wish to say anything?” G.T.D. replied: “Yeah. Like a boss says I’m raping, I didn’t do because I was thinking, like, since we are in a relationship, it’s okay. I didn’t think it would be a raping because we our two boys together” [English was not his first language].

He pleaded not guilty. Defence conceded, at trial, that his statement to the officer was voluntary but argued that it was obtained in a manner that violated his right to counsel. The officer breached the duty to hold off by asking him “Do you wish to say anything?” after he said he wanted to speak to a lawyer. The trial judge ruled that the question did not breach the right to counsel and, if it did, she would not have excluded the statement. The majority in the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. It was of the view that the form of caution read by the police officer generated a breach of the appellant’s right to counsel under s. 10(b) of the Charter, but that the breach was of minimal gravity and that admission of the resulting evidence would not bring the administration of justice into disrepute and did not need to be excluded as a remedy under s. 24(2) of the Charter.

The Supreme Court of Canada reversed the ruling (4-1 majority) and ordered a new trial. Justice Russell Brown held in brief reasons, at paras 2-3, that the question “Do you wish to say anything?” violated the duty to hold off “because it elicited a statement” that should have been excluded. The SCC said that the trial judge expressly relied upon G.T.D.’s statement to corroborate the complainant’s evidence; therefore, its admission was not harmless and the statement should have been excluded.

The right to counsel under s. 10(b) of the Charter obliges police to “‘hold off’ from attempting to elicit incriminatory evidence from the detainee until he or she has had a reasonable opportunity to reach counsel” (R. v. Prosper, [1994] 3 S.C.R. 236, at p. 269).

Of interest to some, the ABCA was quite vocal on point, at para. 82:

It is not the arresting officer’s behaviour individually that is of greatest concern, however. Instead, any fault lies at the feet of EPS institutionally, because it included the eliciting question at the end of its standard caution, or alternatively, because it failed to train its officers not to read this question when a detainee asked to speak with a lawyer. The arresting officer’s good faith does not significantly mitigate the seriousness of a Charter breach if his good faith misunderstanding of the law was a result of EPS training or policy that did not properly educate the officer about his obligations under the Charter. Instead, such an institutional or systemic Charter breach is more serious than an isolated incident: R. v. Harrison, 2009 SCC 34 at para 25, [2009] 2 SCR 494; R. v. Heng, 2014 ABCA 325 at paras 10-11, 580 AR 397; R. v. McGuffie, 2016 ONCA 365 at para 67, 131 OR (3d) 643.

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