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The complainant has unwittingly admitted to committing a serious crime . . . Duty to inform?

Does the Crown have a duty to inform as explained below?

(complainant admitted, in his statement to the police, to committing the serious crime AGAINST THE DEFENDANT - taken from observed real life cases)

And:

The defendant has no lawyer?

The defendant doesn't know he's the victim of a crime (even though he has a copy of the statement, so he's obviously incompetent in his own defence).

. . . DOES THE PROSECUTOR HAVE THE DUTY TO INFORM THE DEFENDANT OR THE COURT that the complainant has committed a crime against the defendant?

Consider the case,

R. v. Murrary (in Canada):

• F: Paul Bernardo asked his lawyer to take possession of videotapes showing murder victims being forced to participate in various sexual acts. M retrieved the tapes from their hidden location.

• I: Are the tapes covered by privilege? NO

• R: M’s discussions with B about retrieving the tapes were covered by privilege were covered, but the tapes themselves were not. They pre-existed the solicitor-client relationship and they ultimately had to be turned over to the crown.

It is apparent that giving the tapes over to the Crown is similar to the defendant (in this case)confessing to the crime, because essentially, the defendant is giving evidence in another form that is an admission, in effect. (An NSF check is an example in which the the burden of proof is on the writer of the check; that is, he must prove his innocence, according to the Canadian Criminal Code - isn't the tape similar to an NSF check? Isn't the admission in the statement the same also?)

Now, does the Crown have a greater duty in reverse toward the defendant (or at least, equal) when the defendant doesn't know that a crime has been committed against him? In general, doesn't the Crown have the duty to inform the PUBLIC (through the court or otherwise) when it becomes known to the Crown that someone has committed a serious crime, and aside from the Crown disclosing such information no one else will know? AFTER ALL, THE PUBLIC SAFETY IS AS AT RISK. Doesn't the PUBLIC have such a duty to inform the authorities of serious crimes? And the Crown, never mind being a public member, has a greater duty by virtue of his position.

(I won’t get into the specifics of any particular case but answer assuming all the above represents too many cases).

NOTE: the statement preexisted the CHARGE, never mind any privileges that follow.

2 Answers

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  • 9 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Murray was acquitted, both criminally and in professional discipline proceedings. He was not required to inform the Crown of anything; rather, he was obligated to provide the Crown with the physical evidence in his possession.

    There's a hypothetical example in law which demonstrates what we call the "brown bag rule". You're a defence lawyer, and your client Joe walks into your office, puts a gun on your desk and declares, "I just used this to kill somebody, make it go away," and ignores your protests and walks out leaving it there. As a lawyer, you can't conceal physical evidence in a crime. However, you also can't disclose privileged communications from your client. So the solution is to put the gun in a brown bag and retain another lawyer to deliver it to the police station with advice only that it may be evidence in a crime. That way, it can't be traced *through you* to your client, though presumably other physical evidence may tie it to your client.

    No general duty to inform exists. The Crown generally has a mandate to prosecute serious crimes, but has a wide discretion in that. It has to inform the defendant of all evidence material to the charge, but if there's a peripheral matter which is unrelated, then there won't be any such disclosure obligation.

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    You think that wouldn't you? Even as a responsible citizen would report a crime, or more so, as you say.

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