By Carroll Boydell
On December 1st, 2017, charges of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder of Corey Lal were stayed against Jaime Bacon. Lal was among six people killed just over 10 years ago in the Balmoral Tower in Surrey, BC, referred to in the media as the Surrey Six killings. One issue cited in the abbreviated BC Supreme Court judgment was the handling of a confidential informant by RCMP who is relevant to that case.
A confidential informant is a person who provides information to law enforcement officials and whose identify is protected. Not all informants receive the privilege of confidentiality. In order to be a confidential informant, the person must request that privilege and receive some sort of assurance by police that it will be conferred upon them.
On the one hand, the police and the Crown must handle and manage confidential informants carefully. They must protect the identity and safety of those who provide critical information about crime to police and to preserve the importance of the public’s civic duty to inform about crime. Once informer privilege is established to exist, this cannot be breached by the police or by Crown. Therefore, steps must be taken by police to notify Crown of witnesses who have privilege of confidentiality so that during court proceedings, the identity of informants will not be revealed. Obviously, informer privilege can affect what information can be divulged at trial and thus affect the progression of court proceedings.
On the other hand, though informants can provide critical information to the legal adjudicative process, some informants (specifically, in-custody or jailhouse informants) have been described by Commission Peter Cory as “the most deceitful and deceptive group of witnesses known to frequent the courts”. Given the potential for some informants to provide false or misleading information, as well as the secrecy surrounding the use of confidential informants, the level of care taken in their management is critical the functioning of a fair and just legal system.
As many of the documents in this case are sealed, the specific issue that arose in the handling of the informant is not known publicly. Bacon remains incarcerated awaiting trial set to begin in April 2018 for counselling the murder of an individual in a separate case.