Canada’s top court says police officers accused of crimes have no special right to mount a defence using information gleaned from informers in the course of their work.
In a unanimous ruling Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada says confidential information from informers cannot be disclosed simply because an accused speculates it might be helpful to his or her defence.
Rather, the accused person must meet the high standard of showing his or her innocence is at stake.
The high court judgment means four former RCMP officers in British Columbia who have been charged with breach of trust, fraud and obstruction of justice are not entitled to reveal informer-privileged information to their lawyers.
The case arose from the so-called “Surrey Six” investigation, a complex probe into gang-related homicide involving several dozen confidential informers.
The four accused officers were involved in the investigation, but now face charges related to their conduct with a witness who was under their protection.
The allegations against the officers are slated to be tested at a trial in January.
In its decision Friday, the Supreme Court said police officers are, when accused of crimes, entitled to expect they will be treated no less fairly than others who are accused and given the full protection of the law.
“What they are not entitled to expect is that they be treated better,” Justice Rosalie Abella wrote on behalf of the court.
Information confided to them for safekeeping is to be used strictly for law enforcement purposes, not for personal gain in their own proceedings, she added.