Stinchcombe Case

The Supreme Court delineated, in the Stinchcombe case (1991), the legal parameters of a full and complete defence, as guaranteed by section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This had the effect of eliminating the legal uncertainty surrounding the disclosure of evidence by the Crown. The Court unanimously affirmed that the Crown had the duty to reveal its evidence to the defence in order that the accused could mount a full and complete defence. This right, which was already recognized by the common law, thereby acquired new vigour, constituting one of the pillars of criminal justice. Rather than being merely voluntary, the disclosure of Crown evidence became obligatory. The duty of disclosure embraced all evidence and all pertinent information. The initial disclosure must take place, moreover, before the accused elects his mode of trial or makes his plea. The absolute refusal to divulge can only be justified by the existence of a right to confidentiality. The discretionary power of the Crown, however, is subject to control by the trial judge.