Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bulletin: Nelson Hart. (Mr. Big case); Supreme Court of Canada decision could be imminent Critics says Mr. Big cases are "breeding grounds" for potential false confessions." (I agree. But the Supreme Court of Canada carries a little more weight than I do! HL); Postmedia News.

 STORY: "Canada's top court weighs legal loopholes in Mr. Big sting operations," by reporter Douglas Quan, published by Postmedia News on May 15, 2014.

SUB-HEADING: "The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to rule at any time on the case of Nelson Lloyd Hart, who was the target of a Mr. Big sting following the drowning deaths of his two daughters."
GIST: "Legal observers are eagerly awaiting a Supreme Court of Canada decision that could rewrite the rules for “Mr. Big” stings, the controversial undercover police operations designed to draw confessions from suspects. In the past, the country’s highest court has dealt only with narrow legal issues arising from these cases, experts said. Now, it is being asked to consider directly whether the elaborate stings — which, critics say, are “breeding grounds” for potential false confessions — should be used by police and their results used in court. “All these arguments are coming to a head. They’ve been sort of nibbled at in other courts, but this is the big showdown,” said Toronto criminal lawyer Russell Silverstein, a director of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted. In a Mr. Big operation, officers posing as members of a criminal organization befriend the suspect — typically a murder suspect — and then gain the suspect’s trust with money, booze and companionship. They get the suspect to carry out jobs for the group and slowly involve him in staged criminal acts, such as money laundering and drug trafficking. Eventually, a meeting is set up with the group’s boss, Mr. Big, designed to get the suspect to cough up details of a past crime. The suspect might be told that police are onto him and he needs to tell the boss everything. Or the suspect could be told he needs to share his past because it’s the only way the organization can ensure his loyalty......... Various legal challenges have tried to argue that confessions from Mr. Big stings are unreliable because of the level of inducement and coercion. But the arguments have generally failed because courts have said key protections — such as the constitutional right to remain silent or the common law rule that says confessions must be voluntary in order to be admissible — apply only in cases where a suspect was in detention and confessed to a person he believed to be a person of authority, such as a cop. This legal loophole has allowed Mr. Big operations to skirt legal protections and given police leeway to use all sorts of ploys to get confessions, said Timothy Moore, chair of psychology at York University. “There’s nothing they won’t do to try to get their psychological hooks into their target.”........Hart’s lawyers, Robby Ash and James Merrigan, replied that the degree of state control over Hart was comparable to being in detention; thus, protections against self-incrimination should’ve kicked in. They said Hart’s confession came after “significant psychological coercion.” When Mr. Big refused to accept Hart’s explanation that the death of his daughters was an accident, his choice was clear. If he stuck to his original story, he risked serious injury or death, or, at best, “crushing poverty and social isolation” and renewed heat from the police. “If he lied and ‘admitted’ to the ‘murder’ his current lifestyle would continue and even improve.” Police actions were so egregious at one point that they would “shock the community,” the lawyers added. After witnessing Hart suffer a seizure one day, police — bent on getting a confession — continued to have Hart perform his role as a driver for the group, putting public safety at risk, they said.
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