BCCLA at Supreme Court of Canada to argue for stringent test to admit fragile evidence 

For immediate release

OTTAWA –Tomorrow, November 3, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear oral arguments in R. v. Bradshaw, a case that considers the threshold admissibility of hearsay evidence provided by an accomplice. The BCCLA is an intervener in the case and will be making oral submissions to the Court.

The case arises in the context of a Mr. Big operation, a police sting operation where undercover agents “recruit” a suspect to join a fake criminal organization in order to gain confessions from the suspect. Mr. Thielen, the target of the Mr. Big operation, gave undercover officers differing accounts of a murder. In one version, he claimed Mr. Bradshaw was involved. In another, he claimed to be the sole perpetrator.  After his arrest, Mr. Thielen again alleged that Mr. Bradshaw was involved and the police videotaped Mr. Thielen re-enacting the crime. The police arrested Mr. Bradshaw on that basis.

Mr. Thielen refused to testify at Mr. Bradshaw’s trial. However, the trial judge admitted the videotaped re-enactment provided by Mr. Thielen. No other evidence connected Mr. Bradshaw to the crime. Nevertheless, the jury convicted Mr. Bradshaw of two counts of first degree murder.

The question for the Supreme Court of Canada is whether Mr. Thielen’s out-of-court reenactment ought to have been admitted by the trial judge. The BCCLA will argue that hearsay evidence of an accomplice should not be admitted for use against an accused unless it is supported by other independent evidence that connects the accused to the crime. In other words, an accused person should not be convicted solely on the basis of an out-of-court statement made by an accomplice.

The unreliability of evidence provided by an accomplice, coupled with the fact that the out-of-court statement cannot be tested by cross-examination, makes this type of evidence particularly risky. The BCCLA will argue that the frailties associated with this evidence requires a stringent analysis to protect against civil liberties abuses, including the risk of wrongful conviction.

The BCCLA is represented by our Acting Litigation Director, Caily DiPuma, and Greg Allen of Hunter Litigation Chambers.

The BCCLA’s argument in this case is available here.

What: Supreme Court of Canada will hear oral arguments in R. v. Bradshaw.

When: Oral arguments before the court begin on Wednesday, November 3, 2016 at 6:30 am PT/ 9:30 am ET.

Where: Supreme Court of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario)

Who:  BCCLA representatives available for comment