Making a Police Statement: Making a police statement after an accusation in Canada is a personal choice, not a legal requirement. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects your right to remain silent, and the court cannot infer guilt from not speaking with investigators. If you choose to make a statement, it is important to answer truthfully and ask for legal representation if needed. Review your statement for accuracy before signing it, and request copies of all witness statements for your lawyer. Making a statement to the police has risks, as even information supporting innocence could help the Crown prove guilt.
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Making a Police Statement After an Accusation
If police investigate you for a crime, they may ask for a statement about the incident. They might say, "We'd like to hear your perspective on the situation." However, everyone in Canada has the right to remain silent and to seek legal representation without delay. You are not obligated to provide a statement or talk to the police, even if they use persuasive or seemingly "friendly" tactics. Anything you say can be used as evidence in court, so it may be wise to consult a lawyer before speaking with the police.
Choosing not to make a statement does not imply guilt. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects your right to silence, and the court cannot infer guilt from your decision not to speak with investigators.
Different Types of Statements
A statement given by a witness, including a victim, is referred to as a witness statement. The statement describes what they saw or believe they saw. The statement will include the witness's name, address and contact number, the time and location of the incident, a description of the people involved in the alleged crime and an explanation of what they saw.
The accused statement contains the same information but from the perspective of the person who was charged or is under investigation for a crime. Again, anything you say can be used against you.
Witness Identification Can Be Wrong
Though you may have been identified as a perpetrator in a witness statement, there is compelling evidence that eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of a wrongful conviction.
The U.S. Innocence Project estimates that eyewitness error was a contributing cause in 70 percent of the 356 wrongfully convicted accused exonerated by DNA evidence in that country. The Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) acknowledges that "even the most well-meaning and confident eyewitness can be mistaken. And the American Psychological Association estimates that one in three eyewitnesses make an erroneous identification."
The PPSC adds, quoting a unanimous Ontario Court of Appeal judgment, that "flawed identification procedures can contribute to miscarriages of justice and the importance of taking great care in conducting those procedures."
If you have been identified as the perpetrator of a crime in a witness statement, your defence lawyer may be able to show how unreliable that identification is.
Making the Statement
If you decide to make a statement after consulting with a defence lawyer, answer all questions truthfully and ask to speak to a lawyer if you are unsure how to respond.
Keep in mind that there is no "off the record" with police. Anything you tell them can be used against you, whether in written form or as a verbal or videotaped statement.
While you can remain silent, you do not have the right to lie to the police. If you do that, you may be charged with obstruction of justice. Lies in your statement will also hurt your credibility in court.
Investigators will make a record of your statement. Carefully review it and confirm its accuracy before signing it. You want to ensure it accurately reflects your account of what happened. Request a copy of the statement and any other witness statements that have been received. Provide these to your defence lawyer.
There are many risks when making a statement to the police. Even when you believe that you are only providing information showing you are innocent, you could be giving the Crown prosecutor information that could help prove their case.