The Frayed and Tarnished Silver Thread: Stinchcome and the Role of Crown Counsel in Alberta
AbstractThe Supreme Court of Canada has repeatedly stressed that, in their roles as Crown prosecutors, Crown counsel must act as ministers of justice in order to protect against wrongful convictions. Historically this obligation has been referred to as a silver thread woven into "the web of Canadian criminal law." Central to this quasi-judicial Crown obligation is disclosure. In this article, the author contends that the Supreme Court ideal of Crown prosecutors acting as ministers of justice and making full disclosure does not correspond with reality. Rather, it is asserted that the Crown delegates disclosure duties to the police, does not take disclosure obligations seriously, and is not held responsible by the courts for failure to disclose. The author argues that until the Supreme Court clarifies the required scope of disclosure, especially as regards Charter defences; until Crown prosecution offices are prepared and equipped to take the disclosure role seriously; and until the courts enforce this role; there will continue to be wrongful convictions due to lack of disclosure.
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