Glendon’s Tim Moore Discusses Mr Big issues with Netherlands law authority

“It was not me. You have the wrong one”. 

These were the words of WS immediately after he had been sentenced to 18 years in prison by the Netherlands’ Zeeland West-Brabant court for killing his girlfriend. The conviction was based mainly on a confession arising from a Mr Big operation – an undercover technique that originated in Canada.  The tactic is designed to seduce the suspect into joining a fictional criminal organization created by the police with the ultimate goal of persuading the target to confess to the crime being investigated.   The Den Bosch Court of Appeal upheld the conviction of WS, thereby signaling judicial approval of the method.

The Netherlands defence bar is worried that the Public Prosecution Service will now use this undercover method much more frequently. They have serious concerns regarding the trustworthiness of confessions elicited by Mr. Big operations.  A symposium held on October 3 was designed to provide a venue for legal professionals to hear about the psychological and legal underpinnings of this controversial investigative tactic. Glendon researcher, Tim Moore was invited there to share his expertise.

 In his opinion, they have good cause to be concerned.  Unlike Canada, there is no requirement in the Netherlands for an electronic record to be kept of the confession, nor of the months of subterfuge that would have preceded its elicitation.  Consequently, the defendant’s lawyers have no good way of objecting to the psychologically manipulative procedures that culminated in the confession.  In Canada, as a result of our Supreme Court’s decision in R v Hart (2014 SCC 52) Mr Big confessions are now “presumptively inadmissible”, even with electronic records of the operation.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the Netherlands.  

You can watch Professor Moore’s discussion of the problematic Mr Big operation here:

Note that while the text and news program is in Dutch, Professor Moore’s discussion is in English, with clips in the first video beginning at 0.01, 1:39 and 2:40. The English clips in the second video can be viewed at 0:01, 3:50, 4:56 and 6:05.