R v Côté

2011 SCC 46 (Released October 14, 2011)

Constitutional law – Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – s. 24(2) – Exclusion of evidence

This majority decision considers the revised approach to the exclusion of evidence, as set out in R v Grant 2009 SCC 32, and marks an important development in the case law dealing with the protection of rights under s. 24(2) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

While investigating an attack against the appellant's husband, the police committed several serious and deliberate violations of her Charter rights. For example, police exceeded their right to enter and search the property; detained the appellant without telling her that she was a suspect; and systematically violated her right to silence. The trial judge found the breaches had been "flagrant and systematic" and excluded both the physical evidence and the appellant's statements to police because the admission of the evidence would bring the administration of justice into disrepute. The appellant was acquitted.

The Quebec Court of Appeal overturned the trial judge's decision to exclude the physical evidence on the basis that it had been obtained without the appellant's participation, the crime was very serious and the police had not deliberately acted in an abusive manner.

The Supreme Court reviewed the Grant analysis. The court must consider three factors: the seriousness of the Charter-infringing state conduct; the impact of the breach on the Charter-protected interests of the accused; and society's interest in adjudication of the case on the merits. The court must then determine whether "having regard to all the circumstances, admission of the evidence would bring the administration of justice into disrepute." If a trial judge has considered the proper factors and has not made an unreasonable finding, a reviewing court should show considerable deference.

The Supreme Court found the Court of Appeal had exceeded its role by re-characterizing the evidence to find that police did not deliberately act in an abusive manner, and by re-considering the impact of the seriousness of the offence. There was no reason to interfere with the trial judge's findings.

The Court of Appeal also erred in placing undue weight on the discoverability principle, to...

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