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See also: Right Against Self-Crimination

At common law, all statements made to a "person in authority" must be proven to be voluntary before it may be admissible at trial. This is known as the "confessions rule".[1] This finding must be made through a voir dire without a jury on a standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Purpose Behind the Rule
The primary purpose of the common law confessions rule to ensure the reliability of confessions. The use of interrogation techniques present a risk that a person will confess falsely.[2]

Voluntariness goes beyond being a rule of admission and relates to closely to the right to silence, the right to a fair trial, and the integrity of the process.[3] It is a "concept designed to limit the scope of police investigative techniques" and to uphold the idea that the system requires the Crown to find guilt without the assistance of the accused. [4]

The rule recognizes that innocent people do at times confess to crimes.[5]

The rule is also to protect the right against self-crimination and ensure fairness.[6]

The traditional confessions rule has the "twin goals" of protecting the accused and not "unduly limiting society's need to investigate and solve crimes."[7]

Requirements of Volutnariness
The voluntariness of a statement is determined by considering the following factors: [8]

  • threats or promises
  • oppression
  • operating mind
  • police trickery

The application of the confessions rule is contextual and requires taking into account all the circumstances.[9] The degree of each factor present will be taken into account. For example, a low level inducement may vitiate voluntariness where the level of oppression from lack of sleep may be high.[10]

The test for right to silence and voluntariness are functionally equivalent. A voluntary statement cannot violate the right to silence. [11]

There is no rule requiring that police officers seek the consent to record the dialogue of any witness or accused that they chose to interview.[12]

Voluntarienss must be proven when the statement is being admitted for the purpose of establishing an officer's reasonable suspicion to permit a screening demand.[13]

Voluntariness need not be proven where the statement is being tendered for voice identification.[14]

Volutnariness implies "an awareness about what is at stake in speaking to persons in authority, or declining to assist them".[15]

Any statement by force, threat or promise are "inherently unreliable".[16]

Questions of ultimate truth, falsity and reliability of the statement are not to be determined in a voir dire on voluntariness. Instead, that is for the trial judge to determine after hearing the entirety of the trial evidence.[17]

The presence or absence of a proper police caution is only a factor in voluntariness analysis and does not guarantee automatic exclusion or inclusion.[18]

The voluntariness rule and the right to silence permits a certain amount of police persistence and persuasion.[19]

Non-Investigative Exception
Where the police ask questions and obtain information from the accused regarding their name, address, and phone number while booking the accused, there is no requirement for proving voluntariness and no voir dire is needed.[20]

Cross-examination of a Co-accused Exception
Defence counsel may use a prior statement to cross examine a co-accused who incriminates the accused even where the statement is not voluntary.[21]

Criminal Offence Exception
When the statement itself is the offence, such as in an obstruction charge, uttering threats, etc, then there is no need to prove voluntariness of the statement.[22]

Failure to Caution Not Fatal
A statement made to a person in authority is not inadmissible solely because the officer failed to give the proper cautions. This failure may be a factor in the voluntariness analysis, but admissibility rests solely on the question of voluntariness.[23]

Under the common law voluntariness rule, the Crown must prove voluntariness beyond a reasonable doubt.[24] However, for a Charter claim against the right to silence, the burden is upon the claimant to prove on the balance of probabilities.[25]

  1. R v Patterson, 2017 SCC 15 (CanLII), per Brown J, at para 14
  2. R v Singh 2007 SCC 48 (CanLII), [2007] 3 SCR 405 at para 29 to 30 per Charron J
    R v Oickle, 2000 SCC 38 (CanLII) at paras 32 and 47 per Sopinka J
    R. v. L.T.H., 2008 SCC 49 (CanLII), [2008] 2 S.C.R. 739, at para. 74
  3. Paterson, supra at para 15
  4. Paterson, supra at para 15
  5. R v Hart, 2014 SCC 52 (CanLII) at para 6 ot 8
  6. Singh, supra at para 21
    Paterson, supra at para 15
  7. Oickle, supra at para 33 ("In defining the confessions rule, it is important to keep in mind its twin goals of protecting the rights of the accused without unduly limiting society's need to investigate and solve crimes.")
  8. Oickle, supra
  9. Oickle, supra at paras 47, 68, 71
  10. Oickle, supra at para 71
  11. R v Singh, 2007 SCC 48 (CanLII), [2007] 3 SCR 405 at para 8
  12. R v Young, 2009 ONCA 891 (CanLII) at para 9
  13. R v RTB, 2009 BCSC 581 (CanLII)
    see also Screening Device
  14. R v McGee et al., 2008 ONCJ 707 (CanLII)
    see also Identity
  15. R v Worrall, [2002] O.J. No. 271 (ONSC) at para 106 (Sup. Ct.)
    R v Roy, [2002] O.J. No. 5541, at para 255
  16. Patterson, supra at para 14
    R v Hodgson, [1998] 2 SCR 449, 1998 CanLII 798 (SCC) at para 19
  17. R v Fernandes, 2016 ONCA 774 (CanLII) at paras 39 to 41 per Hourigan JA
  18. R v EB, 2011 ONCA 194 (CanLII), at para 88 (“the absence of the standard caution is only one factor to be considered in the voluntariness analysis – just as the presence of such a caution does not automatically lead to the conclusion that a statement is voluntary”)
  19. R v Hebert, 1990 CanLII 118 (SCC), [1990] 2 S.C.R. 151, [1990] S.C.J. No. 64, at paras. 73, 110, 130
  20. R v Tran, 1999 BCCA 535 (CanLII) at para 20
  21. R v Logan, 1988 CanLII 150 (ON CA) appealed on other grounds to SCC
  22. R v Stapleton, 1982 CanLII 3331 (ON CA), (1982) 66 CCC (2d) 231 (ONCA)
    R v MM, 2009 CanLII 50761 (ONSC)
  23. R v Hamadeh, 2011 ONSC 1241 (CanLII)
    R v Boudreau, 1949 CanLII 26 (SCC), [1949] SCR 262
    R v Esposito 1985 CanLII 118 (ON CA), (1985), 53 O.R. (2d) 356 (C.A.)
    R v KPLF, 2010 NSCA 45 (CanLII), 290 N.S.R. (2d) 387 at para 38 (“the issue of the caution should not be elevated to such an extent as to exclude a proper consideration of all of the relevant factors.”)
  24. R v Brown, 2015 ONSC 3305 (CanLII) at para 85
    Patterson, supra at para 15
  25. Brown, ibid. at para 85
    Singh, supra, at paras. 24-25, 39
    Hodgson, supra at paras. 34-38
    Hart, supra, at para. 72
    Oickle, supra at paras. 30, 68, 71


The voluntariness rule derives its origin from the Ibrahim rule from the English common law, which excludes statements only where the police held out explicit threats or promises to the accused.[1]

The Ibrahim rule was considered "narrow" as it focused primarily on inducements.[2] It conveys the accused a "negative right...not to be tortured or coerced into making a statement by threats or promises".[3]

Before Oickle, there was also a competing approach that relied upon "procedural fairness" using the doctrine of "operating mind".[4] This approach expanded beyond the determining factor of whether inducements was the primary determiner of admissibility.[5]

  1. Ibrahim v The King, [1914] A.C. 599 (P.C.), at p. 609 ("no statement by an accused is admissible in evidence against him unless it is shown by the prosecution to have been a voluntary statement, in the sense that it has not been obtained from him either by fear of prejudice or hope of advantage exercised or held out by a person in authority")
    See also DPP v Ping Lin [1976] AC 588 at p. 606 for the English test
    Ibrahim adopted in Canada in Prosko v The King 1922 CanLII 67 (SCC), (1922), 63 SCR 226
    Ibrahim was applied in R v Boudreau, 1949 CanLII 26 (SCC). [1949] 262; R v Fitton; R v Wray, 1970 CanLII 2 (SCC), [1971] 272; R v Rothman, 1981 CanLII 23 (SCC), [1981] 1 SCR 640
    see further history in Oickle
  2. Oickle, supra at para 24
  3. Hebert, supra at para 165
  4. R v Horvath, 1979 CanLII 16 (SCC), [1979] 2 SCR 376 - develops "operating mind" doctrine"
    R v Whittle, 1994 CanLII 55 (SCC), [1994] 2 SCR 914 - continues development of "operating mind" doctrine
  5. Oickle, supra at para 26

Person in Authority

The confessions rule is not engaged until a statement has been made to a "person in authority".

Once defence counsel validly raises the issue of whether a person is a person in authority, the Crown must disprove that the person in a "person in authority" beyond a reasonable doubt.[1]

A "person in authority" is someone "who has authority or control over the accused or over the proceedings or the prosecution against him".[2]

Established Persons in Authority
"Persons in authority" can include:

  • peace officer
  • social worker [3]
  • interpreter assisting in a police interrogation [4]
  • Bailliffs[5]

In all but the rarest of cases, a police officer will be considered a person in authority.[6]

It will not include peace officer who are undercover posing as a cellmate[7] or posing as a criminal in a "Mr. Big" operation.[8]

Statements made by an accused person to himself while in the interview room at a police station will be considered statements to a person in authority.[9]

Generally, a person who is likely a witness for the Crown will not be deemed to be a person in authority.[10]

School Staff
Where school staff are acting as "agents" of the police, they will be considered "persons in authority".[11]

The mere co-operation between school staff and the police and the presence of police at the time of a search of a locker is insufficient alone to make the staff "persons in authority".[12]

911 Operators
A 911 phone operator may be a person in authority depending on whether something that the 911 operator communicated to the caller reasonably gave them a subjective belief that the operator was "part of the police apparatus".[13] Not all situations will warrant an operator as being in a person in authority.[14]

However, even where 911 operators are found not to be persons in authority in the circumstances, it will nonetheless be necessary to prove that the speaker had an operating mind.[15]

  1. R v Pickett (1975), 31C.R.N.S. 239(Ont. C.A.)(*no CanLII links)
    R v Hodgson (1998) 127 C.C.C. (3d) 449, 1998 ABCA 396 (CanLII)
  2. R v Todd (1901), 4 C.C.C. 514, 13 Man. R. 364 (C.A.)(*no CanLII links)
  3. R v Matchim, 2011 NLTD 60 (CanLII)
  4. R v Mahmood, 2008 CanLII 56710 (ON SC)
  5. R v Belle, 2010 ONSC 1618 (CanLII)
  6. R v Bertrand (Gen. Div.), 1991 CanLII 7392 (ON SC)
    McWilliams, Canadian Criminal Evidence, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Canada Law Book, 1984), at p. 468
  7. R v J.(D.), 2009 ONCJ 555 (CanLII)
  8. R v Osmar, 2007 ONCA 50 (CanLII)
  9. R v Mantley, 2013 NSCA 16 (CanLII) at para 19 to 42
  10. R v Harrison, 2007 CanLII 38395 (ON SC)
  11. R v MRM, 1998 CanLII 770 (SCC), [1998] 3 SCR 393 (SCC)
  12. MRM, ibid.
  13. R v Ziegler, 2016 ABQB 150 (CanLII) at paras 115 to 119
  14. R v Latham, [1993] OJ No 4534 (CJ (Gen Div)(*no CanLII links) , per Gordon J, at para 16
    R v Paquette, [1999] OJ No 1277(*no CanLII links) , Whalen J at paras 71 – 74
  15. Latham, supra at para 18
    R v Eliuk, 2002 ABCA 85 (CanLII) at para 6

Improper Inducements (Threats or Promises)

Statements are to be inadmissible where they are the product of a “fear of prejudice or hope of advantage”.[1]

Offering "inducements" is a valid method of obtaining statements. The officer may convince the suspect that it is in his best interests to confess. Only "improper inducements" are prohibited. Those are inducements that "whether standing alone or in combination with other factors, are strong enough to raise a reasonable doubt about whether the will of the subject has been overborne".[2]

A confession motivated by the possibility of earlier release or a lighter sentence, does not, on its own, result in exclusion. It follows that most detainees know that a confession will end their interrogation, so the motive will alwasy exist. Few confessions are motivated simply by remorse.[3]

An inducement that came from somewhere other than a person in authority will not render the statement involuntary.[4]

Quid Pro Quo
The presence of a quid pro quo between a person in authority and the accused is a major factor, if not the most important, in determining whether the accused's will was overborne.[5] A quid pro quo offer is "an inducement for the suspect to confess that raises the possibility that the suspect is confessing, not because of any internal desire to confess, but merely in order to gain the benefit offered by the interrogator".[6]

There must be a nexus between the threat or promise and the confession for it to be an improper inducement.[7]

Valid Inducements
An inducement that is only the figment of the accused's imagination, the statement will be admissible.[8]

"Supplying accurate factual information to an accused" does not amount to an improper inducement.[9]

Valid forms of inducements include:

  • spiritual or religious appeals[10]
  • polygraph results[11]
  • minimizing moral gravity of offence[12]
  • appealing to conscience or morality[13]
  • non-specific suggestions that "it would be better" if the accused confessed[14]
  • phrases such as "safer", "better", "best thing"[15]
  • suggesting he should make his own choice 'without the filter of a lawyer"[16]

Invalid forms of inducements include:

  • any connection of statement to liberty[17]
  • quid pro quo for any type of service by police or prosecutor[18]
  • discuss effect of confession on possible penalties[19]
  • suggestions that a statement can assist in getting help for daughter[20]

There must be a causal link between the threat/promise and the confession. Otherwise, the inducement is irrelevant.[21]

  1. R v Oickle, 2000 SCC 38 (CanLII) at para 49
  2. Oickle, ibid. at para 57
    R v Spencer, 2007 SCC 11 (CanLII) at para 13-15
  3. Oickle, supra at para 57
  4. Oickle, supra at para 57
    see also R v Henri, 2001 ABQB 290 (CanLII), [2001] A.J. No. 462 (Q.B.)
    R v Carpenter 2001 BCCA 31 (CanLII)
  5. Oickle, supra at para 56,57
    R v Bakker 2003 BCSC 599 (CanLII) at paras 90, 95
    R v Crockett 2002 BCCA 658 (CanLII) at para 28
    R v Grouse 2004 NSCA 108 (CanLII)
    R v Spencer at para 13-15 - regarding will being overborne
    R v Fernandes, 2016 ONCA 772 (CanLII) at para 27 per Hourigan JA -- considered quid pro quo to be the "most important" factor to consider.
  6. Fernandes at para 27
    R v Heatley, 2015 BCCA 350 (CanLII) at para 6
    Oickle, supra at para 56
  7. Fernandes, supra at para 29
    Oickle, supra at para 84
  8. R v Whittle, 1994 CanLII 55 (SCC), [1994] 2 SCR 914
  9. Fernandes, supra at para 30
    R v Backhouse (2005), 2005 CanLII 4937 (ON CA), 195 O.A.C. 80 (C.A.)
    R v Teske (2005), 2005 CanLII 31847 (ON CA), 202 O.A.C. 239 (C.A.)
  10. R v MacNeil (1995), 138 N.S.R. (2d) 117 (NSCA) leave to SCC denied
  11. R v McIntosh, 1999 CanLII 1403 (ON CA), (1999) 141 CCC (3d) 97 (Ont CA) leave to SCC denied
  12. R v Speidel 2003 BCSC 1532 (CanLII)
    Bakker, supra
  13. R v Crockett, 2002 BCCA 658 (CanLII)
  14. Oickle, supra at para 79 to 80
  15. R v Mujku, 2011 ONCA 64 (CanLII)
  16. R v Shannon, 2012 BCSC 1519 (CanLII)
  17. R v Backhouse, 2005 CanLII 4937 (ON CA) - officer offered to release him if he gave a good alibi. This was seens as a valid description of the situation not inducement.
  18. R c Bégin, 2002 CanLII 41203 (QC CA) - officer offered lenient sentence and protection. Ruled involuntary.
  19. R v Warren (1997) 117 CCC (3d) 418 (NWTCA)(*no CanLII links) - officer said confession would result in lesser offence charged and lighter sentence. Voluntary as inducements did not cause confession
  20. R v M.S.M., 2014 ONCA 441 (CanLII)
  21. e.g. Warren, supra - inducement did not cause confession


A statement will be rendered involuntary where "the conduct of a police officer or the circumstances of the detention are so oppressive as to raise a doubt whether the accused was able to make an independent choice to speak to the police or remain silent".[1]

The oppression factor is where the accused is subject to such pressure that they lose their ability to freely chose not to speak.[2] Their will is overborne by the pressure.[3]

Consideration for this factor includes:

  • aggressive and prolonged interrogations[4]
  • confrontation with false or fabricated evidence, including use of polygraph[5]
  • deprivations of food, water, clothing, warmth/cold, sleep, medical attention[6]

An officer hinting at the possibility of a death penalty as well as suggesting the obligation of the accused to prove innocence can be oppressive.[7]

Where the accused asserts his right to remain silent, the police are under no obligation to cease questioning.[8]

In some circumstances, continued questioning by police where silence is asserted can be found to have had any meaningful choice whether to speak to police.[9]

  1. R v Fernandes, 2016 ONCA 772 (CanLII) at para 33
  2. R v Paternak (1995), 101 CCC 3d 452 (ABCA), 1995 ABCA 356 (CanLII)
  3. R v Oickle, [2000] 2 SCR 3, 2000 SCC 38 (CanLII), at para 98
  4. Fernandes, supra at para 34
    R v Hoilett, 1999 CanLII 3740 (ON CA) at paras 25 to 26
    Oickle, supra at paras 59 to 62
  5. Oickle, supra at para 61, 98
  6. Oickle, supra at para 71
  7. R v Espadilla, 2005 BCSC 174 (CanLII)
  8. R v Singh, 2007 SCC 48 (CanLII), [2007] 3 SCR 405 at para 53
  9. Singh at para 53
    R v Fitzgerald, 2009 BCSC 1599 (CanLII) per Williams J. - statement admissible due to persistent questioning and other inappropriate acts of police

Operating Mind

The issue of operating mind asks, on the whole on the evidence, whether 1) the accused understood what he was saying and 2) the consequences of saying it to a person in authority. If so, he can found to have an “operating mind”. The level of awareness cannot go any further than that.[1]

The first of the two questions, focuses on the reliability of the statement. The second, concerns the fairness of the process.

The doctrine is not separate and apart from the rest of the confessions rule. [2]

Background and Character of Accused
The judge must take into account an individual’s background.[3] Not all persons have the same mental fortitude and are more easily influenced to a point of making a false confession. Cases have considered circumstances where accused are rendered incapable of voluntarily confessing, (eg. Ward mentioned in Oickle) such as where they undergo “complete emotional disintegration”.[4]

The accused does not need to possess "analytical ability".[5] He may still have an operating mind even where he may be psychotic at the time.[6]

Physical State of Accused
Factors to consider:

  • influence of drugs or alcohol
  • mental health state
  • state of shock
  • under hypnosis

Self-Interest Not a Factor
There should be no inquiry into whether the accused is "capable of making a good or wise choice or one that is in his or her interest."[7]

Compulsion by Conscience
By itself, "inner compulsion, due to conscience or otherwise, cannot displace a finding of an operating mind".[8]

Mental Impairments
Cognitive impairments such as schizophrenia, intoxication, or other mental health conditions will not necessarily render a statement involuntary.[9]

  1. Whittle 1994 CanLII 55 (SCC), [1994] 2 SCR 914, a p 936 (the standard “does not imply a higher degree of awareness…” than the standard proposed)
  2. R v Reeves, 2011 BCSC 1513 (CanLII) at 63
  3. Concerns of this is detailed at para 42 of Oickle
  4. see R v Horvath 1979 CanLII 16 (SCC) at p 400
  5. Whittle
  6. R v Brothers, 2004 NLSCTD 202 (CanLII)
  7. Whittle, supra
  8. R v Whittle, 1994 CanLII 55 (SCC), [1994] 2 SCR 914 per Sopkina J at para 55
  9. R v Whittle, ibid. - schizophrenic accused's statement was voluntary
    R v Oldham (1970) 1 CCC (2d) 141 (BCCA)
    R v McKenna, [1961] SCR 660, 1961 CanLII 17 (SCC)
    R v Richard, 1980 CanLII 460 (BC CA), (1980) 56 CCC (2d) 129 (BCCA)
    R v Labbe, 2002 BCSC 996 (CanLII) appealed on other grounds
    R v Legato, 2002 CanLII 41296 (QC CA), (2002) 172 CCC (3d) 415 (QCCA) - accused was on morphine at the time
    R v Pavlovszky, 2005 NBCA 9 (CanLII)
    R v Santinon 11 CCC (2d) 121 (BCCA) (*no CanLII links)
    R v Nagotcha, 1980 CanLII 30 (SCC), [1980] 1 SCR 714

Unfair Police Trickery ("Dirty Tricks" Doctrine)

Trickery by police is allowed. Authorities sometimes must resort to tricks and deceit in dealing with shrewd and sophisticated criminals. The law does not permit, however, is "conduct on their part that shocks the community". (emph. added)[1]

Police trickery is a distinct area of consideration from the other factors of voluntariness.[2]

The purpose of considering trickery is to maintain "the integrity of the criminal justice system".[3]

Conduct that shocks the community may not necessarily violate the right to silence or any other rule of voluntariness.[4]

Even where the conduct does not shock the community, the use of deception is relevant to the voluntariness analysis.[5]

Examples of typically proper trickery:

  • exaggerate the accuracy of polygraph results[6]
  • lying about fingerprints and DNA evidence
  • exploiting the accused's motivation to assist his girlfriend who was arrested without misleading him in any way as to how the investigation might unfold[7]

Examples of improper trickery include:

  • pretending to be a chaplain or legal aid lawyer[8]
  • using truth serum under the pretense that it is insulin[9]
  • pretending to turn off a tape recorder when taking a statement[10]

There is less tolerance for trickery on youths since they are more gullible and inexperienced.[11]

  1. R v Oickle, [2000] 2 SCR 3, 2000 SCC 38 (CanLII), at para 66 citing Rothman v The Queen, 1981 CanLII 23 (SCC), [1981] 1 SCR 640
  2. Oickle, supra at para 65
  3. Oickle, supra at para 65
  4. Oickle, supra at para 67
  5. Oickle, supra at para 91
  6. Oickle, supra at para 95, 97 - suggests that if confession came immediately after results, there may be an issue
  7. R v Heatley, 2015 BCCA 350 (CanLII) at para 38
  8. Oickle, supra at para 67
  9. Oickle, supra at para 67
  10. R v Holt, 2012 BCSC 1121 (CanLII)
  11. R v K et al, 2004 BCPC 210 (CanLII) at para 88

Undercover Officers

Undercover officers disguised as religious officials have been accepted as a valid form of police trickery.[1]

  1. see R v Welsh, 2013 ONCA 190 (CanLII)

Incomplete, Inaccurate or Non-recorded Statements

A statement that was not recorded does not automatically render it inadmissible.[1] The same goes for incomplete recordings. Or non-contemporaneous recordings.[2]

However, "the accuracy and completeness of the record of the circumstances surrounding the making of the statement can relate to proof of voluntariness on the voir dire."[3]

Video recording "can greatly assist the trier of fact in assessing [a] confession".[4] They provide a means for the court to enforce safeguards, it evaluates interrogation methods and deters improper tactics.[5]

However, the lack of recording can enhance concerns of voluntariness.[6] Where the accused is in custody in a location equipped to record a statement but it was not used, the non-recorded statement is inherently suspect.[7]

Where the statement was not recorded or only partially recorded, the statement may be excluded where the absence of a record results in the inability to determine if the statement was voluntary.[8] Thus, situations where the summarizing notes are too short to capture the whole statement may raise an issue on voluntariness.

Similarly, statements that are non-video or audio recorded, it is not necessarily inadmissible. In all cases, the crown must prove there is a sufficient record of the interaction between the accused and police. However, where the recording facilities exist but are not used the statement may be "suspect". Thus, the judge must determine whether a sufficient substitute has been provided to prove voluntariness beyond a reasonable doubt.[9]

Issues of the accuracy and authenticity of a statement is not an issue of the judge in the voir dire but rather the trier-of-fact in the trial itself. The issue is one of authenticity not admissibility.[10] However, this does not mean all issues of "accuracy and completeness of record[s]". The "completeness, accuracy and reliability of the record" are relevant to the inquiry into the surrounding circumstances of the taking of the statement.[11]

  1. R v Oickle, [2000] 2 SCR 3, 2000 SCC 38 (CanLII), at para 46
    R v Reeves, 2011 BCSC 1513 (CanLII) at para 40
    R v Richards, [1997] 87 BCAC 2, 33 W.C.B. (2d) 39, 1997 CanLII 12470 (BCCA)at para 36
    R v Moore-McFarlane and Bogel, [2001] O.J. No. 4646 (C.A.), 2001 CanLII 6363 at para 64, 65 and 67
    R v Ducharme, 2004 MBCA 29 (CanLII) leave to appeal to SCC refused
  2. Ducharme, ibid. at paras 26 to 47
  3. R v Learning, 2010 ONSC 3816 (CanLII) at para 62
    R v MacDonald–Pelerine, 2014 NSCA 6 at para 43
  4. Oickle, supra at para 46
    R v MD, 2012 ONCA 841 (CanLII)
  5. Oickle, supra at para 46
  6. Reeves at 41
  7. R v White 2003 CanLII 40837 (ON CA) at para 21
    Moore-McFarlane, supra at paras 65-6
    MD, supra at para 41
  8. R v Belanger (1978), 40 CCC (2d) 335 at 345 (Ont. H.C.J.)(*no CanLII links)
    Richards, supra at 33
  9. Ducharme, supra at para 42
  10. R v Lapointe, (1983) 9 CCC (3d) 366 (ONCA)(*no CanLII links) aff'd at 35 CCC (3d) 287(*no CanLII links)
  11. Moore-McFarlane, supra at para 67


The procedure for conducting a voir dire on voluntariness of a confession should proceed as follows:[1]

  • crown requests a voir dire
  • jury is excluded, if present
  • crown informs court of the purpose of the voir dire
  • crown will call witnesses to give evidence on the treatment of the accused by police up to the statement.
  • accused may choose to call witnesses
  • judge decides whether the statements are voluntary

Where the defence admits that a statement was voluntary there is no need for a voir dire.[2] However, the judge hold discretion to reject the admission and order a voir dire nevertheless.[3]

The trial judge has an obligation to conduct a voir dire despite counsel's failure to request one where the evidence "clearly demonstrates that the receiver of the statement made by the accused was closely connected to the authorities".[4] This obligation will rarely be triggered where the "receiver of the statement is not a conventional person in authority".[5]

There is no rule against reviewing the entirety of a statement to determine voluntariness.[6]

Where the confession contains prejudicial information such as references to other criminal acts, it may be edited. Where the meaning of the statement is changed by any editing then the confession should be inadmissible.[7]

If the accused testifies during the voir dire, the questions must be limited the circumstances of the taking the statement. The Crown may ask whether the statement was true.

A ruling rendering the confession inadmissible by a prelminary inquiry does not bind the trial judge from reconsidering the issue anew.[8]

A statement proven voluntary that is first tendered by the Crown during cross examination may be admitted for the truth of its contents.[9]

When determining the voluntariness of a statement the authenticity and reliability of the statement is not relevant.[10]

  1. Gibson, "Criminal Evidence, Practice & Procedure" 18(B)
  2. R v Grey, 2013 BCCA 232 (CanLII) at para 41
  3. R v Grey at para 41
  4. R v Hodgson 1998 CanLII 798 (SCC), [1998] 2 SCR 449 at para 41
  5. Hodgeson, ibid.
  6. R v Stringer, 1992 CanLII 2775 (NL CA), (1992) 69 CCC (3d) 535 (NLCA) ("There is no law that precludes this and, in some cases, it is necessary to read the statement before making such a ruling.")
  7. R v Kanester (1966), 4 CCC 231 (BCCA)(*no CanLII links)
  8. R v Banwait, 2010 ONCA 869 (CanLII)
  9. R v Turpin, 2005 BCSC 475 (CanLII), at para 12
  10. R v Lapointe and Sicotte, [1987] 1 SCR 1253 aff'g (1983) 9 CCC (3d) 366 (ONCA)

Burden of Proof

This Crown must prove voluntariness beyond a reasonable doubt in a voir dire.[1] This is true even during a preliminary inquiry.[2] The Crown is required to lead evidence detailing the surrounding circumstances leading up to the statement.[3] A failure to set out a sufficient record of the interaction between the accused and police may result in the statement being involuntary.[4]

There is no obligation of the part of the Crown to call every police officer who was present during any interaction with the accused.[5]

Ordinarily the crown should call "all persons in authority who have contact with the accused person while in custody prior to the taking of his statement". This does not include persons who only pass on information unless their evidence bears on the voluntariness of the statement.[6]

A person in authority who is sufficiently remote from the taking of the statement should not necessarily be required to testify.[7]

However, the Crown should provide some explanation that the officers who did not testify did not have a direct involvement with the taking of a statement.[8]

A statement will not be rendered inadmissible because there is a "mere possibility or conjecture of an earlier conversation in which threats or promises may have been made" by a person who did not testify.[9]

I do not think there is a rule of law which requires rejection of a statement because of the mere possibility or conjecture of an earlier conversation in which threats or promises may have been made

  1. R v Moore-McFarlane, [2001] O.J. No. 4646 (C.A.), 2001 CanLII 6363 at para 65 and 67
    R v Ahmed, [2002] O.J. No. 4597 (C.A.), 2002 CanLII 695 at para 22
  2. R v Pickett (1975), 28 CCC (2d) 297, 31 C.R.N.S. 239 (Ont. C.A.)(*no CanLII links)
  3. R v Sankey, 1927 CanLII 43 (SCC), [1927] SCR 436
    R v Guilbride, 2003 BCPC 261 (CanLII) at paras 48-50
    R v Malik, 2002 BCSC 362 (CanLII), [2002] BCJ No 3222 (BCSC)
    Moore-McFarlane, supra at para 70
  4. R v Holmes, 2002 CanLII 45114 (ON CA), (2002) 169 CCC (3d) 344 (ONCA) - crown failed to call evidence of 16 hour wait period in custody
    See also, R v Jimmy John, 2007 ABPC 125 (CanLII) - failed to call an officer who was present
    R v Petri, 2003 MBCA 1 (CanLII)
    R v Koszulap (1974), 20 CCC (2d) 193 (Ont. C.A.)(*no CanLII links) at p. 194, 197-198
    R v Genaille, 1997 CanLII 4333 (MB CA) leave refused - failure to call sherriff's who detained accused prior to statement. statement found voluntary
    R v Guilbride - statement taken in police officer's note books conflicted
  5. R v Garfield (1974) 21 CCC (2d) 449 (ONCA)(*no CanLII links) at p. 457 ("The appellant's position ... is that the prosecution is obliged to call ... every witness who had anything to do with an accused who makes a confession, from the moment of his first contact with the police until the statement has been given. In my opinion, the proposition, stated in those terms, is too broad.")
    R v Settee, 1974 CanLII 971 (SK CA), (1974), 22 CCC (2d) 193, pp. 206-207 (SKCA)
    R v Menezes, 2001 CanLII 28426 (ON SC) at para 19 ("There is no absolute rule that every person in authority irrespective of the degree of contact with the accused need be called on a confessional voir dire.") c.f. R v Thiffault [1933] SCR 509, 1933 CanLII 52 (SCC)
    R v Woodward (1975), 23 CCC (2d) 508 (Ont. C.A.)(*no CanLII links)
  6. R v Hatfield (1984), 62 NSR (2d) 151(*no CanLII links)
    Hatfield elaborated in R v G.A.J., (1993), 120 NSR (2d) 432 (NSCA)(*no CanLII links) ("a person who simply receives and passes the fact of a telephone call unless that person had evidence that bears upon the voluntariness of the statement of the appellant or his understanding of or the exercise of his constitutional right".)
    R v Socobasin, 1996 CanLII 5271 (NS CA)
    R v Menezes, 2001 CanLII 28426 (ON SC) at para 19 ("A flexible rule designed to examine the role of any police officer with real investigatory or custodial contact generally promotes meaningful scrutiny of relevant governmental conduct.")
  7. R v Dinardo, (1981), 61 CCC (2d) 52(*no CanLII links) per Borins C.C.J.
  8. R v Brooks, 1986 CanLII 1168 (BC CA), (1986) 28 CCC (3d) 441 (BCCA)
  9. R v Chow, (1978) 43 CCC (2d) 215 (BCCA)(*no CanLII links) at para 16

Use of Statement

There is some conflict between different jurisdictions over whether an accused statement can be used for the truth of its contents, or simply for impeaching credibility, on cross-examination when the accused is not willing to adopt the statement.[1]

  1. R v Groves, 2013 BCCA 446 (CanLII) at para 41
    c.f. R v McKerness, 2007 ONCA 452 (CanLII) at para 37

Case Digests

See Also