Canada high court upholds conviction despite police disregard of 'right to silence'

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Canada [official website] Thursday affirmed [judgment text] by 5-4 the murder conviction of a British Columbia man in a case widely seen as a test of the right to remain silent guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. Jagrup Singh [case materials] alleged that the police had violated his constitutional right to remain silent by continuing to question him in relation to a murder investigation, even after he invoked his right some 18 times and requested that the interrogation be halted. Under the Charter suspects have the right "not to be compelled to be a witness" against themselves in criminal proceedings. The justices held that the trial judge had been aware of the dangers of coercion but had made the right decision in allowing the confession into evidence.

Dissenting Justice Morris Fish wrote that:

The interrogator understood very well that the accused had chosen not to speak with the police but nonetheless disregarded the accused’s repeated assertions of his right to silence. In his relentless pursuit of a confession “no matter what”, the interrogator urged the accused, subtly but unmistakably, to forsake his counsel’s advice. The accused was thus deprived not only of his right to silence, but also, collaterally, of the intended benefit of his right to counsel. Detainees left alone to face interrogators who persistently ignore their assertions of the right to silence and their pleas for respite are bound to feel that their constitutional right to silence has no practical effect and that they in fact have no choice but to answer.
CBC News has more.


 

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