May 22, 2018

Summary of R v Spence

R v Spence, 2017 MBCA 26 (CanLII)
Judgment date: February 17, 2017

Criminal law --- Charter of Rights and Freedoms — Charter remedies [s. 24] — Exclusion of evidence
The accused and three co-accused brutally beat the deceased and carried him out to a bush where he was stabbed and left undiscovered for over a month.
While in custody on unrelated charges, the accused admitted to another inmate that he had killed the deceased. This inmate contacted the RCMP, which led to the accused being arrested for murder. Once arrested, the accused requested to speak to a lawyer, but the lawyers he requested were initially unavailable. The accused was then placed in a cell already occupied by an undercover officer (posing as an inmate). After speaking to counsel, the accused had lengthy police interviews that led to a detailed confession. Upon returning to the cell, the accused made inculpatory statements to the undercover officer (stating: “I just fuckin' confessed' and 'So me and one a my buddy's tied him up, broke his arms, carried him to the bush, killed him.').
The accused appealed his conviction for first degree murder and sought a new trial. The accused argued that the trial judge erred in failing to find that the inculpatory statements were obtained in a manner that infringed his section 10(b) Charter right to retain and instruct counsel without delay and, further, that he erred in failing to exclude the statements under section 24(2) of the Charter on the basis that their admission would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
The Crown conceded that there was a section 10(b) breach, so the issue was whether the trial judge correctly applied section 24(2) in deciding not to exclude the statement to the undercover officer.
The Court outlined the process to determine whether the remedy of exclusion of evidence should be granted under section 24(2), and concluded that the trial judge applied the correct legal test to determine the question of whether the statement was obtained in a manner that infringed the accused's Charter rights.
The Court found that the trial judge made no errors in his factual findings, all of which were supported by the evidence. The trial judge rejected the accused’s argument that the statement was contextually linked to his initial conversation with the undercover officer (e.g. before the accused spoke to counsel), and found that there was no causal connection between the Charter violation and the statement. The trial judge's finding that the statement was not obtained in a manner that infringed the accused's Charter rights was open to him and there was no basis for appellate intervention.
The Court concluded by noting the trial judge’s ruling under section 24(2) (e.g. that the statement would not bring the administration of justice into disrepute) was entitled to deference. The trial judge considered the proper factors and that his findings of fact were reasonable and supported by evidence.
Appeal dismissed.