January 23, 2009

Getting ALL the Information About Your Criminal Charge

In R. v. Stinchcombe, the Supreme Court of Canada made it a requirement for Crown prosecutors to disclose to a person charged with a criminal offense all relevant information about their criminal charge - whether or not the Crown intends to introduce it into evidence and whether or not it tends to prove that the accused is guilty or not guilty. Generally, Crown will provide an accused with a disclosure package at their initial appearance, or shortly afterwards.

While the disclosure package usually meets the requirements in R. v. Stinchcombe, for whatever reason, important information is sometimes omitted which could affect an accused’s chances of being acquitted at trial. That’s why it is important to review the Crown disclosure package carefully to see if anything is missing. Look for omitted page numbers, police reports, and witness or complainant statements.

Even if nothing is obviously missing, you may want to write what’s known as a Stinchcombe Letter to the Crown Counsel office asking for further disclosure. The following is an example of some disclosure requests commonly made in a Stinchcombe letter:
  1. A copy of any police reports or notes made on or about [DATE OF OFFENCE] with respect to the accused not already disclosed. In particular, legible and unredacted copies of [CONSTABLE #1234 SMITH’S] police notes (Note: this last part would apply where portions have been blacked out);

  2. An unredacted copy of the Criminal Justice Branch Narrative, Report ID: ABCD1234 (Note: again, this would apply where portions of the report have been blacked out);

  3. Any audio or video recordings of any conversations of [THE ACCUSED] with the police during his arrest and detention on or about [DATE OF OFFENCE/DATES OF DETENTION];

  4. Any audio or video recordings of the conversations of [WITNESS/COMPLAINANT NAMES] on the night of the alleged incident and any audio tapes of [WITNESS/COMPLAINANT NAME’S] call to the police which led to the arrest;

  5. A copy of the criminal record of the complainant, [COMPLAINANT’S NAME];

  6. A copy of the criminal record of any proposed witness;

  7. Copies of any photographs taken by police of [THE ACCUSED] or [THE COMPLAINANT] or the scene of the alleged incident on or after [DATE OF OFFENCE];

  8. Inspection of anything that the Crown proposes to introduce as an exhibit and, where practicable, production of copies thereof;

  9. Where not protected from disclosure by the law, the name and address of any other person who may have information useful to the accused, or other details enabling that person to be identified; and

  10. Any other material or information known to the Crown not previously disclosed and which tends to mitigate or negate the accused's guilt or which would tend to reduce his punishment therefore, notwithstanding that the Crown does not intend to introduce material or information as evidence.

Contact information for the Crown Counsel office responsible for an accused’s file is usually found on the cover letter of the Crown disclosure package. However, if you don’t have this information and want to know where to send your Stinchcombe letter, you can call the Vancouver Crown Counsel office at (604) 660-4353 to find out which Crown prosecutor is responsible for your file.

Here is some more information about the role of Crown Counsel.

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