Durham Regional Crime Stoppers Inc. and X.Y. v. Her Majesty the Queen, 2017 SCC 45
TORONTO, Ontario, Canada, November 8, 2017: Since September 1976, Crime Stoppers has been a leader in joining together law enforcement, the media and the public in a united effort against crime. The success of Crime Stoppers has been driven by a very simple formula: the ability to take a tip from anyone, anytime, anywhere; the ability to provide a cash award for that tip; and, at its most basic, the ability to keep that tipster anonymous. This commitment to anonymity is not just for the integrity of the program but for the safety of those who decide to use the program. But the promise of anonymity is not an impenetrable cloak of immunity for those who seek to abuse it.
The Durham decision confirms that those who call Crime Stoppers in good faith, intending to provide information to advance a law enforcement investigation have their identities protected by the privilege the law gives to informers. This protection is virtually absolute, and once found will apply in all cases except those rare circumstances where access to some of the contents of a tip is required to demonstrate the innocence of an accused person. The protection will apply even if the information turns out to be wrong, as long as it was submitted in good faith. All the Court has said in this case is that those who intentionally try to misuse the system, submitting information they know to be false for reasons of their own, face a risk that their identity may be exposed in a subsequent investigation.
Crime Stoppers is a civilian-run, non-profit organization. It is prepared to go to great lengths to protect the anonymity of its callers. Such lengths included pursuing the Durham appeal. The decision has provided a helpful clarification of the nature of the protection enjoyed by callers. Crime Stoppers will be taking immediate steps through its websites to advise its stakeholders of the limits to anonymity that will apply in rare circumstances.
THE CRIME STOPPERS PROMISE OF ANONYMITY:
WHAT TIPSTERS NEED TO KNOW
By providing information that Crime Stoppers will share with law enforcement agencies, you are providing an important and valuable public service. We understand that disclosure of your identity might put you at risk. We do everything we can to protect your anonymity. However, that anonymity may be open to challenge in the following situations:
- A call to Crime Stoppers made with the intention of “furthering criminal activity or interfering with the administration of justice”. A party who is guilty of a crime cannot use Crime Stoppers to try to divert the blame onto someone else. Crime Stoppers cannot be used to try to “frame” an innocent person.
- There is evidence that disclosure of some or all of a tip is necessary to establish someone’s innocence.
- A tipster having received the benefit of full legal advice may, for his or her own reasons, elect to waive the privilege.