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LEGAL ASPECTS

LEGAL ASPECTS


ADMISSIBILITY OF POLYGRAPH EVIDENCE IN CANADA’S CRIMINAL COURTS


The polygraph examination and its result are not admissible as evidence in Canada’s criminal judicial system. This statement of law was made by the former Honourable Mr Justice William Rogers McIntyre of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Béland and Phillips, [1987] 2 S.C.R. 398 Docket: 18856.


Canada’s criminal courts hold that the result of a polygraph examination is an opinion put forth by a polygraph examiner based on the evaluation of physiological data that was obtained using a polygraph instrument, and that evidence of this type — although useful in the investigative process — should not supersede the role of the judge and jury to decide the credibility of a witness. Trial by judge and jury has long been the cornerstone of Canada’s criminal judicial system.


When a confession has been obtained in a criminal case, however, the testimony of the polygraph examiner may be heard as part of a Voir Dire hearing.


ADMISSIBILITY OF POLYGRAPH EVIDENCE IN CANADA’S CIVIL, LABOUR, YOUTH, AND FAMILY COURTS


The polygraph examination and its result may be admissible in Canada’s civil, labour, youth, and family courts. Across Canada, judges presiding over these courts have adopted varying views regarding the admissibility of polygraph evidence in a judicial proceeding, ranging from its acceptance to its partial acceptance to its non-acceptance. Some judges have taken the view that the statement of law made by the former Honourable Mr Justice William Rogers McIntyre in R. v. Béland and Phillips should apply not only to criminal matters, but to civil, labour, youth, and family ones as well. Other judges have taken the stance that any evidence of witness credibility — if probative and relevant — should be admissible in a judicial proceeding, including polygraph evidence.