Entrapment is one of the many defences available in the criminal justice system. However, criminal defence lawyers will only pursue a defence of entrapment if the facts suggest that this defence may be successful. Only rarely will the facts of the case support a defence of entrapment.

All defences are split into two categories: excuses and justifications. Justification defences are defences the accused can raise to show that he or she did the right thing in the circumstances and should therefore not be punished. The best example of this is self-defence. Defendants who raise an excuse defence, on the other hand, admit that they committed a crime and acted immorally, but assert that they have an excuse for the way they acted. A good example of an excuse defence is mental illness. Entrapment is also an example of an excuse defence. This means that when a defendant raises a defence of entrapment, they admit to committing the crime in question, however, they argue that they have a reasonable excuse for their conduct.

The idea behind entrapment is that the individual was enticed or provoked into committing a crime by the police. When the police overstep their duty to investigate crime and instead initiate or create a crime, the defence may arise. The rationale behind the defence is that it constitutes abuse of process on the part of the Crown prosecute an individual, if his or her crime was motivated by police instigation. As a result, if the defence can establish entrapment, the court will stay the proceedings against you. The result of a stay is that the case against you cannot proceed, no guilty conviction is entered against you and the incident will not appear on your criminal record.

A defence of entrapment tends to be available on charges relating to drugs or prostitution. The general scenario is that the police will have an undercover agent approach an individual soliciting sex or trying to buy drugs. If the individual agrees to purchase sex or sell drugs, the police will then arrest them on charges of solicitation for the purposes of prostitution or trafficking in narcotics. If the police conduct reached the point that they are actively encouraging an individual who would not ordinarily have committed a crime to commit an illegal act, the defence of entrapment may become available.

The defence of entrapment was successfully raised in the case of R. v. Mack. Mack was a former drug addict who had reformed and given up drugs with the help of yoga. Nonetheless, police officers decided to target Mack in an undercover operation to search for evidence of drug trafficking. The police enlisted two confidential informants to contact Mack. The informants approached Mack asking for drugs, but he refused to sell them. Later, the informants followed Mack to a yoga retreat while still undercover and harassed him to arrange a drug deal for them. Mack still refused to be involved in any form of drug transaction. Finally, the confidential informants took Mack on a walk in the woods, where they told him that their “people” were coming into town today and needed drugs. The informants told Mack that their people would be very “upset” if Mack could not get them the drugs. Then, the confidential informants showed Mack a pistol and said, “someone could really get lost out here in the woods”. Following that threatening statement, Mack relented and agreed to procure a large amount of cocaine for them. Mack showed up at the arranged transaction spot, was shown a suitcase of money, and made the exchange. Unbeknownst to Mack, the two men he was making the drug exchange with were undercover police officers. Following the exchange, Mack was arrested.

The Supreme Court of Canada allowed the defence of entrapment to succeed in Mack and stayed the proceedings against him. The court emphatically explained that the police should not engage in “random virtue testing” of the population. By this the court meant that the police should not test the virtue of individual citizens by offering them the opportunity to commit a crime at random. When the police do this, they seem to create crime and then arrest people for the crimes they create. The individual arrested may never have committed a crime in his or her life if not for his or her interactions with the police. Such conduct on the part of the police offends our justice system’s fundamental values of justice and fairness.

In Mack the Supreme Court laid down a test to determine when entrapment has occurred. At the first stage of the test, the court asks whether the police have targeted individuals based on a reasonable suspicion that the individual is involved in crime or through involvement in a bona fide investigation. According to the court, anything short of reasonable suspicion or a bona fide investigation would constitute random virtue testing. A bona fide investigation is an authorized investigation in a targeted area. For example, the police can target a particular area if they have reasonable grounds to believe criminal activity is prevalent there; however, they cannot walk the streets at random posing as civilians and trying to encourage individuals to commit crimes. If the police target an individual who they do not have reasonable grounds to suspect is involved in criminal activity or they target random people outside the context of a bona fide investigation, the defence of entrapment will operate to stay the proceedings against the defendant.

Even if the first part of the test is not met, the defence of entrapment may still be available to the defendant under step two of the test from Mack. At step two, the court must consider a number of factors to determine whether the police manipulated or directed the defendant to commit the crime. The court refers to this as “planting the seed of crime” within the individual. The idea is that, by “planting the seed of crime”, the police cause a person who may never have committed a crime to engage in criminal activity. In the case of Mack, the court determined that even though the police had reasonable grounds to suspect that Mack may be involved in criminal activity, they went so far as to “plant the seed of crime within him”; thus, the court allowed the defence of entrapment under the second branch of the test.

In Mack the court lists a number of factors to help determine whether the police crossed the line and “planted the seed of crime”.

The list of factors for the court to consider are as follows:

  • the type of crime being investigated and the availability of other techniques for police detection of its commission;
  • whether an average person, with both strengths and weaknesses, in the position of the accused would be induced into the commission of a crime;
  • the persistence and number of attempts made by the police before the accused agreed to committing the offence;
  • the type of inducement used by the police including: deceit, fraud, trickery or reward;
  • the timing of the police conduct, in particular whether the police have instigated the offence or became involved in ongoing criminal activity;
  • whether the police conduct involves an exploitation of human characteristics such as the emotions of compassion, sympathy and friendship;
  • whether the police appear to have exploited a particular vulnerability of a person such as a mental handicap or a substance addiction;
  • the proportionality between the police involvement, as compared to the accused, including an assessment of the degree of harm caused or risked by the police, as compared to the accused, and the commission of any illegal acts by the police themselves;
  • the existence of any threats, implied or express, made to the accused by the police or their agents; and
  • whether the police conduct is directed at undermining other constitutional values.

The court will look at these factors to determine whether or not to stay the proceedings due to entrapment.

Make sure that you are represented by competent criminal defence lawyers. Call Kostman and Pyzer, Barristers.

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