Watch above: recent Supreme Court of Canada “Mr.Big” ruling pushes back Hales verdict date
SASKATOON – The judge in the first-degree murder trial for Douglas Hales has pushed back a verdict date until arguments are made on the implications of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling.
A verdict set for later this month has now been pushed back so both sides can make further arguments in the case following a recent ruling that cast doubt in the reliability of “Mr. Big” police sting operations.
On July 31, the country’s highest court made a landmark ruling, deciding that “Mr. Big” stings can continue but confessions obtained this way are no longer admissible unless the Crown can prove why they should be.
This ruling has the potential to affect any “Mr.Big” cases currently before the court, including Hales.
“The court could say the ‘Mr. Big’ statements are not admissible that’s certainly one option and obviously that would have a very big impact on the trial. It’s certainly not the position the Crown believes should be done or should take but again that’s up to Justice Allbright,” said Matthew Miazga, senior Crown prosecutor for the case.
A verdict was to be delivered by the judge on Aug. 29, a date now set aside so Allbright can hear further submissions from counsel on the ruling.
“I think the issues that were raised by the Supreme Court were precisely the issues that were argued in this case at great length by myself and Mr. Hrycan but the court has to now apply this new rule of evidence to those issues so the case isn’t going to change from the Crown’s perspective, it’s how the rule of evidence permits that type of evidence to be considered by the court,” added Miazga.
In 2008, undercover RCMP officers posing as criminals got Hales to confess to killing Daleen Bosse who vanished in May 2004.
The technique known as a “Mr. Big” sting is used for cold cases and when all other avenues of investigation have failed to produce any useful evidence.
“While Mr. Hales was a suspect from the outset there was no evidence to justify charging him until after the ‘Mr. Big’ sting was competed so it’s central to the Crown’s case,” said Miazga.
The Crown admits, while the rules are designed to make the trial fair, it has been difficult on the victim’s family.
“It’s disheartening for them, I think the words they used was ‘it was a punch in the gut’ if I can quote them in relation to the fact that the case isn’t going to be finished on the 29th,” explained Miazga.
Bob Hrycan, the lawyer representing Douglas Hales, phoned in for Monday’s court proceeding and had this to say when the judgement came down from the Supreme Court.
“It’s an earthquake. It changes everything. It moves the law from a position where the statements were presumptively admissible and now brings it to a point where the statements are presumptively inadmissible, that’s huge,” said Hrycan.
“I think that there is wide-spread concern that the technique lends itself to abuse and that if it has not yet created a miscarriage of justice it soon will.”
As for what the Saskatoon Police Service thinks of the ruling, Chief Clive Weighill still sees merit in the technique that has helped the department solve several cases.