Further to today’s earlier post, one of — if not my favorite — reporters, Kirk Makin of the Globe and Mail explains why the SCC was so keen to look at a suspect’s rights during interrogation.

What I’ve always found interesting about police interrogations is how in their efforts to get at the truth, police can lie their faces off to a suspect.

Quoth Makin:

They said that suspects can easily become confused when they are confronted by police with bits and pieces of real or fictional evidence. Believing there is no hope, they may be induced to give up their right to silence.

“The right to counsel – and by extension, its meaningful exercise, cannot be made to depend on an interrogator’s opinion as to its opportunity or utility,” they said.

In the first case, the Court majority ruled that self-incriminating statements from Trent Terrence Sinclair, who was being interrogated about an alcohol-induced killing, were admissible at his trial.

If you’re planning on, or perhaps think you’re going to wind up on the wrong side of an interrogation (as I did, to a degree — it’s no fun, believe me), read Makin’s article to bone up on what you can expect from the law of the land when you’re in that little room at your neighbourhood police station.

PS – the 600 plus comments on the Globe/Makin article are fascinating, and virtually all of them say the same thing: Shut the hell up. And, then, generally speaking, you have to tell police your name, address and show ID. That’s it.

The rest is gravy to them.

Consider yourselves warned. 😉

UPDATE: Another of my faves, Brian Lilley of Sun Media has also written on the SCC’s decision, which must have caused no end of internal debate.

3 thoughts on “You have the right to remain silent. Not a lawyer.

  1. I’m going to read the decision before I comment much, but based on the news coverage, I’m not taking it at all the way you seem to. The decision seems to park Canada somewhere in between Escobedo and Miranda in the US, which is a good place to be. Having the right to counsel should not, for example, be an excuse for a suspect to wait indefinitely to be available for questioning until his own preferred BFF lawyer flies in from Tahiti, which is one of the issues addressed directly in the case as I understand it.

    But, again, I want to read the actual decision…

  2. It’s completely against people’s nature to keep their mouths shut, and police know this. People feel compelled to explain themselves, to correct the wrong information that police provide to the suspect. However, showing a knowledge in the matter usually implicates you. Media (tv, movies) and the police both like to suggest that talking to the police helps you, even when you are guilty, so accused people fall for it all the time. The amount of clients I have to tell “You’re screwed” would probably drop 50% if they ever actually listened to my advice of “KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT AT ALL COSTS”. Its usually only after having screwed one’s self over by giving a statement, that people learn to keep their mouths shut.

    What I don’t think is fair is that the police routinely tell accused’s not to listen to the lawyer’s advice. They get one phone call to us, let’s say it lasts 15 minutes, and then the police get to spend the next 6 hours telling the accused to talk, that their lawyer is wrong, and they’d be better off not listening to the lawyer- how does that translate into right to counsel???

  3. Bella, Brian: I love your perspectives on issues like this. Thanks for writing in.

    Bella: I’d be interested to know more, generally, in what is typically said in those few minutes a client has with lawyer…

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