I can recall that as I was growing up and learning a little bit about criminal law in school, I’d often think to myself what a lucky country we have that we can live in a place where the justice system puts enough checks and balances in place to make sure the chances of an innocent person getting prosecuted and convicted of a crime he/she didn’t commit would be slim and none. After all, you have to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Which means ‘probably guilty’ isn’t going to cut it. But, over time I’ve come to realize that the pendulum has swung quite a ways to the other side. We’ve reached the point that even if we know a guilty party has committed a violent offense, we still can’t touch him /her as far as a conviction is concerned. Take the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent decision that really hampers the ability of RCMP to conduct Mr. Big investigations. The Court is saying such investigations are questionable because it leaves room for concern over how coerced a confession is received. They point to a case many years ago in Newfoundland and ignore how Mr. Big investigations have evolved over time. Two recent cases in Manitoba resulted in cold case murders being solved and missing bodies getting recovered. To me, they show an impressive way to investigate cases that dry up for numerous reasons.
However, there is one case in Newfoundland where judges have been very critical of RCMP and their methods and that could call all previous Mr. Big investigations into question and may shut the door on future ones. One Supreme Court judge says the matter in Newfoundland left the accused with a stark choice: confess to Mr. Big or be deemed a liar by the man in charge of the organization he so desperately wanted to join (the judge may be is ignoring the fact this organization is ‘illegal’). For the record, the retired police officer who was ‘Mr. Big’ in the Newfoundlad case, firmly, believes the accused is guilty of the 2002 double murder of his daughters, despite the Supreme Court throwing out the admission.
Paranoid socialists will tell you a Mr. Big sting allows police to, possibly, pick on a poor innocent individual and trick that person into admitting to a crime he/she was not responsible for. This is utter nonsense, of course. When you take into account the man power and financial resources that go into completing a Mr. Big operation, it is very apparent that police know they are going after a guilty party. They just need to get creative on eliciting a confession. I, for one, have no problem with this. Besides, shouldn’t it maybe be a crime for a person to join a criminal enterprise anyway (which is what undercover officers are doing when luring a suspect, as they get their target to admit to a crime in order to join their, supposed, seedy underworld).
I realize nothing is perfect and a Mr. Big operation could go wrong. In Manitoba, I’m aware of two cases where a judge poked holes in the evidence and scolded police. However, I would also point out that in both cases there still has not been a guilty plea/verdict. Did police get the right man in each matter and just not finish it off because the judge didn’t like the evidence? To me, I come back to one very overwhelming factor in these cases and that is if I was ever approached to commit crime for money, the discussion would be over before the investigation ever begins. What kind of a person submerses himself into that world anyway? And, I don’t care how much money you offer me, I’m not admitting to a murder I didn’t commit.
In Saskatchewan, one of the more prominent Mr. Big investigations was the one where George Allgood was given a life sentence for murdering his ex-girlfriend and trying to kill her boyfriend in Saskatoon. Allgood’s defense lawyer didn’t focus on the fact Allgood was innocent, but rather tried to convince the court that the Mr. Big operation should not be admissible. To me, this means ‘guilty, but let’s try and get you off somehow’. Fortunately, the judge didn’t buy Allgood’s claim that that he only knew certain facts about the murder from watching the news and he’s now doing 25 years in the grey hotel.
One of the bigger national news stories that involved a Mr. Big operation was in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia where Penny Boudreau killed her 12-year-old daughter. At first, Boudreau received an outpouring of support as a grieving mother; but police later got Penny to not only confess, but re-enact the crime and provide a detailed written account of her daughter’s final moments, including a strangling to her child’s cries of “Mommy, don’t”.
Count me in as a Mr. Big supporter.
Nice person mentions this week to: Casey Stern, Lisa Schill, Don Chesney, Cynthia Wolkowski, and Dave Chura.