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General Principles

See also: Abuse of Process

The purpose of the entrapment doctrine "reflects judicial disapproval of unacceptable police or prosecutorial conduct in investigating crimes".[1] It balances the interests of police flexibility in "the techniques they use to investigate criminal activity"--especially in "consensual crimes" which are difficult to detect by conventional crime--against the use of "techniques would offend our notions of decency and fair play".[2]

The defence of entrapment is not a traditional justification or excuse. It is a form of an abuse of process application resulting in a stay of proceedings.[3] The application is separate from the issue of guilt or innocence and is dealt with separate from a trial on the merits.[4]

Entrapment is not a formal defence in law, but rather it is a procedural disentitlement to convict on the basis of abuse of process and fairness.[5]

A defence is available when:[6]

  1. the authorities provide a person with an opportunity to commit an offence without acting on a reasonable suspicion that this person is already engaged in criminal activity or pursuant to bona fide inquiries; or
  2. although having such a reasonable suspicion or acting in the course of a bona fide inquiry, they go beyond providing an opportunity and induce the commission of an offence.

Burden of Proof
The accused bears the burden of proof to "demonstrate by a preponderance of evidence that the prosecution is an abuse of process".[7]

The burden should be high as "[t]he state must be given substantial room to develop techniques which assist it in its fight against crime in society."[8]

Already Engaged in Criminal Activity
An invitation to treat (as opposed to an offer) is presumptively sufficient to establish that the suspect "is already engaged in the proposed criminal enterprise". [9]

Opportunity to Commit an Offence

There is nothing wrong with police "opening up a dialogue" or initiating "exploratory conversation" that is short of offering an opportunity to incriminate himself.[10]

Police may "present an opportunity to commit a particular crime to a person who arouses a [reasonable] suspicion that he or she is already engaged in the particular activity".[11]

Bona Fides Inquiry
An "exception to [the rule establishing entrapment] arises when the police undertake a bona fide investigation directed at an area where it is reasonably suspected that criminal activity is occurring. When such a location is defined with sufficient precision, the police may present any person associated with the area with the opportunity to commit the particular offence. Such randomness is permissible within the scope of a bona fide inquiry."[12]

Random Virtue Testing
Police are not permitted to engage in random "Random virtue testing" (RVT).[13]

RVT exists where the officer has no suspicion that:[14]

  1. the person is already engaged in the particular criminal activity, or
  2. the physical location with which the person is associated is a place where the particular criminal activity is likely occurring.

Certain provinces have found that RVT by police, such as randomly calling phone numbers found on a suspect's cell phone in hope of catching a drug trafficker, oversteps their bounds of bona fides police investigations.[15]

Conducting a a DNA canvass of suspects has been upheld as a valid investigation technique.[16]

An in inducement occurs where "the police have gone beyond merely providing the opportunity for the commission of a crime and have entered into the realm of the manufacturer of criminal conduct".[17]

The character of the inducement does not necessarily have to be "deceit, fraud, trickery or reward", but can include "calculated inveigling and persistent importuning".[18]

One approach would be "to consider whether the average person, with both strengths and weaknesses, in the position of the accused would be induced into the commission of a crime".[19]

Factors to be considered whether the police went beyond "providing an opportunity to commit an offence" include but are not limited to:[20]

  • the type of crime being investigated and the availability of other techniques for the police detection of its commission;
  • whether an average person, with both strengths and weaknesses, in the position of the accused would be induced into the commission of a crime;
  • the persistence and number of attempts made by the police before the accused agreed to committing the offence;
  • the type of inducement used by the police including: deceit, fraud, trickery or reward;
  • the timing of the police conduct, in particular whether the police have instigated the offence or became involved in ongoing criminal activity;
  • whether the police conduct involves an exploitation of human characteristics such as the emotions of compassion, sympathy and friendship;
  • whether the police appear to have exploited a particular vulnerability of a person such as a mental handicap or a substance addiction;
  • the proportionality between the police involvement, as compared to the accused, including an assessment of the degree of harm caused or risked by the police, as compared to the accused, and the commission of any illegal acts by the police themselves;
  • the existence of any threats, implied or express, made to the accused by the police or their agents;
  • whether the police conduct is directed at undermining other constitutional values.
  1. R v Imoro, 2010 ONCA 122 (CanLII), at para 8
  2. Imoro at para 9
  3. R v Sargent 2010 ABPC 285 (CanLII) at para 20
    R v Pearson, 1998 CanLII 776 (SCC), [1998] 3 SCR 620
    R v Shirose, 1999 CanLII 676 (SCC), [1999] 1 SCR 565, 133 CCC (3d) 257
  4. Sargent at para 19
  5. Mack, supra
    R v Amato, [1982] 2 SCR 418, 1982 CanLII 31 (SCC)
  6. R v Mack 1988 CanLII 24 (S.C.C.), (1988) 44 CCC (3d) 513 (S.C.C.) at p.559 (at para 126)
    Imoro at para 10 ("first, when state authorities, acting without reasonable suspicion or for an improper purpose, provide a person with an opportunity to commit an offence; and second, even having reasonable suspicion or acting in the course of a good faith inquiry, the police go beyond providing an opportunity to commit a crime and actually induce the commission of an offence.")
  7. Mack, supra at p. 568 ("The interests of the court, as guardian of the administration of justice, and the interests of society in the prevention and detection of crime can be best balanced if the accused is required to demonstrate by a preponderance of evidence that the prosecution is an abuse of process because of entrapment")
    R v Pearson, [1998] 3 SCR 620, 1998 CanLII 776 (SCC) at para 12
  8. Mack, supra
  9. R v Gingras, 2013 BCCA 293 (CanLII)
  10. R v Hersi, 2014 ONSC 4143 (CanLII), at para 19
  11. R v Bayat, 2011 ONCA 778 (CanLII) at para 14
  12. R.v.Barnes 1991 CanLII 84 (SCC), (1991) 63 CCC (3d) 1 (S.C.C.) at pp.10-11
  13. R v Mack at p. 560
  14. R.v.Barnes 1991 CanLII 84 (SCC), (1991) 63 CCC (3d) 1 (S.C.C.) at pp.10-11
    R v Hunt, 1996 CanLII 1207 (BC SC) at para 7
  15. R v Swan, 2009 BCCA 142 (CanLII) at para 43
    R v Clothier, 2011 ONCA 27 (CanLII) at para 14("The police should not be allowed to randomly test the virtue of citizens by offering them an opportunity to commit a crime without reasonable suspicion that they are already engaged in criminal activity; or worse, to go further and use tactics designed to induce citizens to commit a criminal offence.")
  16. R v Osmond, 2012 BCCA 382 (CanLII)
  17. Mack at para 120
  18. Mack at para 121
  19. R v Argent, 2014 ONSC 4270 (CanLII) at para 19
  20. Mack at p. 560

Application to Specific Offences

Drug Trafficking

An undercover officer who attempts to buy drugs from someone suspected of selling drugs does not constitute entrapment.[1]

Police appeared to be permitted to "achieve a level of reasonable suspicion by engaging in the preliminaries of a drug transaction" such as by asking for a drug "hook up".[2]

  1. R v Barnes
  2. R v Olazo at para 25

Internet Luring

Police are permitted to engage people on the internet in regions on the internet such as Craigslist in the same manner that police enter into bad neighbourhoods for engaging people for known known drug dealing activity.[1]

Where the suspect takes the lead in directing the conversation then the officer is not "offering an opportunity to commit to commit an offence".[2]

Ensnaring accused through the posting of false online ads advertising underage prostitutes is not generally entrapment.[3]

An officer should not engage in communication "of a sexual provocation nature" until the reasonable suspicion has been formed.[4]

The usual remedy for entrapment is a stay of proceedings under section 24 (one) and not merely an exclusion of evidence under section 24 (2).[5]

  1. R v Argent, 2014 ONSC 4270 (CanLII) at para 18
  2. Bayat
  3. R v Chiang, 2012 BCCA 85 (CanLII)
  4. Bayat
  5. R v Imoro, 2010 ONCA 122 (CanLII)

Non-Criminal Offences

The defence of entrapment is not permitted in regulatory offences such as the sale of tobacco to minors. Random virtue testing is available.[1]

  1. R v Clothier, 2011 ONCA 27 (CanLII)


A defence of entrapment cannot be advanced until after the crown has proven all of the elements of the offence and there is a finding of guilt. A "two-stage trial" must be undertaken. First, the question of guilt is determined. If found guilty, the judge determines whether there was entrapment.[1]

The decision of whether entrapment exists is in the authority of the trial judge and not the jury.[2]

Evidence of entrapment, irrespective of its value towards guilt, must be disclosed at the earliest opportunity.[3]

  1. R v Mack
    R v Imoro, 2010 ONCA 122 (CanLII) considered in R v Bérubé, 2012 BCCA 345 (CanLII)
  2. Mack
  3. R v Pearson (1994), 89 CCC (3d) 53560 Q.A.C. 103 (Que. C.A.) upheld at 130 CCC (3d) 293 (S.C.C.)
    see also Disclosure

Reasonable Suspicion

Case Digests

Case Summary
R v Germain, 2012 SKCA 9 (CanLII) reasonable suspicion found based on accused with marijuana growing license and a criminal record, and an anonymous information of accused selling marijuana to kids at house
R v Clothier, 2011 ONCA 27 (CanLII) undecover compliance check on tobacco vendors not entrapment
R v Bayat, 2011 ONCA 778 (CanLII) entrapment defence overturned on appeal for luring charge
R v Gosselin, 2010 BCPC 164 (CanLII) entrapment found when police asks to buy drugs through a dial-a-dope scheme. Officer was engaged in random virtue testing.
R v Mann, 2009 ABPC 238 (CanLII) entrapment found on drug charge