Court agrees Mr. Big evidence can't be used in accessory-to-murder case
'It is the unacceptable use of police tactics to coerce confessions that is problematic,' court says
Nova Scotia's highest court has dismissed an appeal in a case where police used a Mr. Big sting against a woman who had been accused of helping a man charged with murder.
Brittany Leigh Derbyshire had been charged as being an accessory to murder in the death of 20-year-old Stacey Adams, who was found gunned down in Lake Echo in April 2011.
Steven Skinner, 43, is charged with second-degree murder in the case and fled the country shortly after. He was arrested earlier this year in Venezuela and is awaiting extradition to Canada.
Derbyshire, 27, was accused of helping Skinner escape by driving him to Moncton, N.B., as well as concealing and destroying evidence.
Undercover officers posed as outlaw bikers
In July 2011, RCMP targeted Derbyshire in a so-called Mr. Big sting in the hopes she could lead them to Skinner.
Mr. Big is a technique used by undercover police officers to elicit confessions from suspects, often in more serious criminal cases such as murder. The police pretend to be members of a criminal organization and try to get the suspect to join them.
In this case, two undercover officers from Quebec posed as members of an outlaw motorcycle gang and confronted Derbyshire in the parking garage of her apartment building in Lower Sackville. They told her they were looking for a "rat" and were looking to clean up the "mess" Skinner had left behind.
At her trial in 2014, the judge found police tactics in the Mr. Big operation amounted to an abuse of process.
He excluded all the evidence RCMP gathered in the sting against Derbyshire. Without the evidence, the case against her collapsed and she was acquitted.
The Crown appealed.
'Unacceptable use of police tactics'
In Wednesday's decision, the Court of Appeal upheld the trial judge's position and dismissed the Crown's appeal.
"It is the unacceptable use of police tactics to coerce confessions that is problematic," Justice Duncan Beveridge wrote for the three-member appeal panel.
The undercover officers "confronted the respondent in her dimly lit underground parking lot. They ordered her to get back into her car, and demanded she tell them what had happened," he wrote.
"She said she was scared by the implicit threats of violence."
A spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service said the Crown will take the next couple of months to decide whether to appeal this case to the Supreme Court of Canada.