Canadian Judge finds interrogation process to be 'oppressive' - mislabels as The Reid Technique

Written By: Reid
Sep 20, 2012
Earlier this month a lower court judge in Alberta, Canada in the case R. v. Chapple, found that a confession obtained after an 8 hour interrogation was inadmissible because the interrogation process was so oppressive that the suspect's will was overborne, leading her to say "what the police wanted to hear". The investigating officers testified that during their interrogation they conducted the interview "using aspects of the Reid Technique." Unfortunately, the judge made the mistake of assuming that everything the investigators did was part of The Reid Technique.

For example, the interrogation in this case was reported to be 8 hours long, during which the suspect "asserted at least 24 times that she wanted to remain silent." In our book, Criminal Interrogation and Confessions (5th ed 2011), we point out that if there is no progress within a 3 to 4 hour period and the suspect remains adamant in their denials, the interrogator must re-assess the situation. Furthermore, we teach that the suspect's rights must be scrupulously honored.

The Reid Technique was described as a "guilt-presumptive" procedure - to the complete contrary, we teach investigators to take a neutral, non-accusatory stance at the start of an interview with the aim of developing investigative and behavioral information. If the investigative information indicates the suspect's probable involvement in the commission of the crime then an interrogation becomes appropriate. We teach that the first contact with a subject should never be an accusatory interrogation.

It should be noted for reference that numerous Canadian courts have supported the basic approaches that we spouse in the Reid Technique when we reach the interrogation phase - such as displaying empathy and understanding toward the suspect during the interrogation. For example, in R. v. Oickle, the lower court suggested that the interrogator's understanding demeanor improperly abused the suspect's trust. The Canada Supreme Court disagreed stating, " In essence, the court [of appeals] criticizes the police for questioning the respondent in such a gentle, reassuring manner that they gained his trust. This does not render a confession inadmissible. To hold otherwise would send the perverse message to police that they should engage in adversarial, aggressive questioning to ensure they never gain the suspect's trust, lest an ensuing confession be excluded."

In the Reid Technique we teach that the investigator should minimize the moral seriousness of the suspect's behavior. In Oickle, the Court of Appeals concluded that the police improperly offered leniency to the suspect by minimizing the seriousness of his offense. The Supreme Court again disagreed stating, "Insofar as the police simply downplayed the moral culpability of the offence, their actions were not problematic."

In a more recent case, R. v. Amos, the court stated, "There is nothing problematic or objectionable about police, when questioning suspects, in downplaying or minimizing the moral culpability of their alleged criminal activity. I find there was nothing improper in these and other similar transcript examples where [the detective] minimized [the accused's] moral responsibility. At no time did he suggest that a confession by the subject would result in reduced or minimal legal consequences."

False or coerced confessions are not caused by the application of the Reid Technique, they are usually caused by interrogators engaging in improper behavior that is outside of the parameters of the Reid Technique - using improper interrogation procedures - engaging in behavior that the courts have ruled to be objectionable, such as threatening inevitable consequences; making a promise of leniency in return for the confession; denying a subject their rights; conducting an excessively long interrogation; etc.

As one U.S. District court stated, "In sum, the proffered expert testimony to the effect that the Reid technique enhanced the risk of an unreliable confession lacked any objective basis for support whatever." US v. Jacques, (2011).

For additional information see an article we wrote about two Canadian court decisions regarding the elements of the Reid technique on our website at

Also, several months ago we prepared a document for our website entitled, Clarifying Misinformation about The Reid Technique.
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