The Mr. Big tactic has a 95% success rate in jailing criminals, but critics want it banned.
Driving the news: This Canadian policing tactic, which involves creating fake criminal groups—like a gang—to trick real criminals into confessing to crimes they’ve committed, is being challenged in courts. Opponents also want it outlawed, per The New York Times.
The tactic, invented by the RCMP, has been used to solve over 350 cold cases in Canada since 2008. Of resulting prosecutions, 95% have ended in convictions.
- The target (usually a murder suspect) is often enticed to engage in criminal acts by the fake gang. Ultimately, the goal is to coerce a confession for previous crimes.
In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled the technique can be unreliable and manipulative: targets are unaware of their right to remain silent or speak to a lawyer. They’re also compensated for performing “favours” for the fake groups. Still, it’s often used as a last-resort option.
- Some lawyers say the tactic is a breeding ground for false confessions. A number of people convicted through Mr. Big have been exonerated after suing law enforcement.
Bottom line: The effectiveness of the tactic makes it difficult to advocate against it, Michele Ruyters, a criminal law professor, told The New York Times. Beyond Canada, countries like Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands have also adopted the Mr. Big technique.—SB