Top court upholds conviction in ‘right to remain silent’ case

Posted: November 2, 2007 in BC, Headlines, RCMP

An interesting story that although not directly related to Caledonia demonstrates how the Police can ignore your most basic rights at will in Canada and get away with it.

Canadian Press – November 1st, 2007

The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the murder conviction of a B.C. man in a case viewed as a test of how police interrogation tactics should square with the charter’s long-protected right to silence.

The court ruled 5-4 Thursday against the appeal from Jagrup Singh, a 31-year-old from Surrey, B.C., of his 2002 conviction for second-degree murder.

The case revolved around the question of whether police breached Singh’s right to remain silent when they persisted in questioning him about a shooting, even though he repeatedly made it clear that he didn’t want to talk.

Under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the accused has the right “not to be compelled to be a witness” against himself in criminal proceedings.

“It is not appropriate to impose a rigid requirement that police refrain from questioning a detainee who states that he or she does not wish to speak to police,” Justice Louise Charron wrote in her majority opinion.

Singh was accused of firing a handgun through the open door of a bar after being kicked out for fighting in April 2002. The stray bullet struck the head of bystander Rick Lof, a 30-year-old from Langley, B.C.

Singh was arrested days later, but while being questioned by the Surrey RCMP, he repeatedly raised his right to silence.

According to the Supreme Court case summary, Singh told the police that he did not want to talk, that he had nothing to say, that he knew nothing about the shooting and that he wanted to return to his cell.

The interrogating officers ignored his pleas and pressed on with questioning. Eventually, in the second of two interviews, Singh gave a confession.

The judge hearing his trial in 2002 admitted Singh’s statements into evidence and a jury convicted him.

In her opinion summary released after the Supreme Court’s ruling, Charron wrote that the trial judge was aware of the risk that a confession obtained through police persistence in continuing an interview might not be a product of the accused’s free will to speak to authorities. She said the judge made the right call in allowing the evidence and ensuring police didn’t overstep the bounds.

However, Justice Morris Fish, writing for the four-member minority, took the opposite tack.

“The question on this appeal is whether ‘no’ means ‘yes’ where a police interrogator refuses to take ‘no’ for an answer from a detainee under his total control,” Fish wrote.

“As a matter of constitutional principle, I would answer that question in the negative, allow the appeal and order a new trial.”

  1. Nancy Marshall says:

    As the sister of the victim in this “interesting story” I must respond. The murderer’s rights were not ignored. He was the one who continued to talk. He was the one who indentified himself.

    Let’s not forget that Jagrup was the one who carried a concealed, loaded weapon, into a public place (of course he was prohibited from doing so, since a previous conviction). He made the choice to shoot and my brother paid the ultimate price for his stupidity.

    What about my brother’s basic human rights to a happy and long life?

    Words cannot express how horrific and traumatic this crime was and still is today, 5 years later. The wounds never heal and the pain does not go away.

    The pathetic attempts by Jagrup to avoid the consequences of his actions have cost Canadians hundreds of thousands of dollars. When is this insanity going to stop?

  2. caledoniawakeupcall says:

    If you are indeed the sister of Rick Lof, then my sympathies go out to you.

    To be clear about my interest in the story, it is not that Mr. Singh should in my opinion be freed from custody, but that the police tactics used to get a confession from him are highly questionable at best.

    This website is dedicated to a situation and a place where the fundamental principles of the rule of law and the civil rights of citizens have been abandoned by the Ontario Provincial Police in order to appease a small group of violent criminals. The cost of that appeasement thus far is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars to tax payers and a human toll that can not be measured.

    Jeff Parkinson

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