The limits of police deception in obtaining a confession from a suspect who is neither arrested nor detained: The Canadian Supreme Court leads the way

Authors Bobby Naudé

ISSN: 2522-3062
Affiliations: Professor of Law, Unisa
Source: Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa, The, Volume 50 Issue 1, p. 22 – 40


In Canada, confessions are sometimes obtained through what is commonly known as ‘Mr Big’ operations. These involve recruiting a suspect into a fictitious criminal organisation with a view to obtaining a confession from him or her. Because of the unique circumstances under which such confessions are made, there is real danger of abuse of power by the police and of unreliable confessions. The suspect is unaware of the status of the person hearing the confession and no constitutional warnings are necessary. This practice provides an opportunity to view police deception from a different angle. Because of the central role played by the police in obtaining these confessions, and because even reliable confessions cannot be admissible in the face of improper police conduct, it is submitted that the reliability of such confessions and the manner in which they were obtained should be considered together when judging their admissibility.