Canadian Criminal Procedure and Practice/Arrest and Detention/Confidential Informers

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General Principles[edit]

Police will often rely upon confidential informers to form their grounds to affect a warrantless arrest or for a search warrant. These are most pervasively seen in dealings related to drugs and organized crime where confidential communications are so often shared to persons who may have an interest in revealing it to police officers.

A "tip", form an anonymous or confidential source can be used to form the grounds of arrest or search. The "tip" must be considered based on: [1]

  1. the degree of detail provided;
  2. the informant's source of information;
  3. the informant's prior reliability.

This test was previously stated as:[2]

  1. was the information predicting the commission of a criminal offence compelling?
  2. where that information was based on a "tip" originating from a source outside the police, was that source credible?
  3. was the information corroborated by police investigation prior to making the decision to conduct the search?

All these factors are to be balanced together in the "totality of the circumstances" to determine if the evidence meets "the standard of reasonableness".[3]

An anonymous tip generally is not sufficient.[4]

The purpose of considering the level of detail is to "ensure that it is based on more than mere rumour or gossip"[5]

It is insufficient to rely on conclusory statements without any information on the "source or means of knowledge and whether there are any indicia of his or her reliability, such as the supplying of reliable information in the past or confirmation of part of his or her story by police surveillance"[6]

The test remains the same whether considering a warrantless search or a warrant such as a wiretap.[7]

Hearsay from the informant can be sufficient.[8]

Consideration of the reliability of the information must be at the time of the warrantless search or application for a warrant. It cannot be considered ex post facto from the results of the search.[9]

Confirmation of the criminal aspects of a tip is important in cases such as where the tip is anonymous.[10]

Where there is no corroboration or confirmation, the reliability of the source is the essential issue.[11]

  1. R. v. Warford (2001), 161 CCC 309, 2001 NFCA 64 (NLCA)
    R. v. Garofoli, [1990] S.C.J. No. 115 at para. 68
  2. R. v. Debot, [1989] S.C.J. No. 118 1989 CanLII 13 at p. 218-219
  3. R v Debot, supra
    R. v. Garofoli, [1990] S.C.J. No. 115 at para. 68
  4. R. v. Bennett (1996) 108 CCC 175, 1996 CanLII 6344 (QC CA) [1]
  5. R. v. Greffe, 1990 CanLII 143 (SCC), [1990] 1 SCR 755
  6. Greffe, supra
  7. R. v. Garofoli, [1990] S.C.J. No. 115 at para. 68 ("I see no difference between evidence of reliability of an informant tendered to establish reasonable and probable grounds to justify a warrantless search ... and evidence of reliability of an informant tendered to establish similar grounds in respect of a wiretap authorization.")
  8. R. v. Garofoli, [1990] S.C.J. No. 115 at para. 68
  9. R. v. Garofoli, [1990] S.C.J. No. 115 at para. 68
  10. see R. v. Campbell, 2003 MBCA 76 (CanLII), 2003 MBCA 76, at par. 27
  11. R. v. Maton, 2005 BCSC 330 (CanLII) at para. 45 R. v. Pippin 1994 CanLII 4659 (SK CA)
    R. v. Cheecham, (1989), 51 C.C.C. (3d) 498 (Sask. C.A.)
    R. v. Duther, 2002 NBPC 4
    R. v. Duncan 2004 MBCA 64 (CanLII)

Other Factors[edit]

  • Level of detail of the informer's information:
    • Length of discussions with informer
    • Amount of information known of accused (by name or description)?
    • Did information include the location of criminal offence?
    • did information include nature and quality of drugs?
    • did information include the nature of the deal?
  • Informers source of knowledge
    • 1st, 2nd or 3rd hand information? (3rd degree is as good as anonymous)
    • Freshness of the information
  • Past reliability:[1]
    • Length of time known
    • Frequency of contact
    • # of times paid (before / after incident)
    • # of valid search warrants based on his information
    • Had searches resulted in seizure of drugs/monies/weapons (If so, in what amount?)
    • Had information resulted in convictions?
    • # of negative, false or inaccurate information?
    • # of cases resulted in dismissed/acquitted/withdrawn
  • Credibility of Informer
    • Did they have pending charges at the time?
    • Non-conclusory information
    • Did thye have a criminal record? For offences of dishonesty? If so, how many, and how long ago?
  • Corroboration/Confirmation by other investigative sources
    • how many/much of the details of the information confirmed?
    • how much of the information was non-obvious or obscure?

An informer with a criminal record is quite frequent and expected. The presence of a record should not necessarily negate the value of the information.[2] However, offences such as perjury will likely have an impact on their credibility. [3]

  1. Garofoli,.supra, emphasizes past reliability
  2. Robertson c. Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, 2010 QCCS 355 (CanLII), <> at 29
  3. R. v. Pelley, 2002 CanLII 20132 (NL PC), <> at 21

Cross-Examination of Affiant[edit]

The accused may only cross-examine an officer who sworn an affidavit to obtain a search warrant with leave of the court. Leave should be granted where it would assist in the determination of whether there is a basis upon which the authorizing judge could have granted the order.[1]

See Also[edit]


  1. Salhany, Canadian Criminal Procedure, Sixth Edition, at 3.1880
    see also: Parsons v. R., 2012 CanLII 42275 (NL SCTD) - leave refused