As cool as undercover police operations seem on TV, the Supreme Court of Canada isn’t such a fan. Today in a majority decision, Canada’s top court ruled that so called Mr. Big sting operations, also known as “The Canadian technique” (no, not that technique, get your mind out of the gutter) are highly problematic and require much more stringent guidelines if they are to continue.
The specific case that was taken to the Supreme Court was that of Nelson Hart, a Newfoundland man convicted in 2007 of the homicide of his two young daughters. Pretty vile stuff, the kind of thing if he was in America that could earn him an electrifying tour of Ol’ Sparky. But he was convicted because of evidence found during a Mr. Big operation, and now that the Supreme Court has ruled against them, Nelson Hart could be set free sometime very soon. For readers at home inept at Canadian criminal lingo, the “Mr. Big” operation has nothing to do with “Sex and the City”.
Here’s the general outline of a “Mr. Big” operation:
-a person is suspected of a terrible crime, but the police don’t have enough evidence to prove it in court
-undercover cops form a phony gang and lure the suspected criminal into their crew
-after earning the suspect’s trust by committing fake crimes (or maybe real crimes… the cops haven’t really been clear on that), the undercover cops ask the suspect to reveal information on the crimes he or she has committed in the past
-presumably there’s a tape recorder in the room
That’s how they convicted Nelson Hart. The cops played the role of ‘cool criminals,’ and Hart wanted to get into the in-crowd so bad, he revealed his deepest, darkest secret.
Or maybe he didn’t. It’s possible (and here’s what the Supreme Court thinks) that this so called ‘confession’ is actually the suspect boasting for social status in some sick, twisted way. (Not much different from a high school locker room.)
It’s still unknown if convicted killer Nelson Hart’s case will be taken back to court. If it is, it’s easy to imagine that all criminal busted by “Mr. Big” are going to get on the phone with their legal team immediately.
Undercover sting operations are expensive, unreliable, and sound pretty dangerous if ya ask me. If the cops are so sure that one of these guys are guilty, there must be a different way to bust them, hopefully one not involving entrapment.