A person files a criminal complaint, a police agency investigates, obtains a witness statement, and a very public criminal investigation is commenced. The investigating agency tries to develop forensic evidence and consults forensic experts who's professional opinion does not likely support the allegation. The investigating agency then consults a lay person and asks that person to give forensic evidence that would tend to support the allegation. Well into the investigation, evidence surfaces that the compliant is bogus as the complainant previously supplied a contrary statement that was lost but now found. The investigating police agency ignores the statement and does not conduct any type of followup interview with the complainant. Provincial Justice Officials become involved and in some way directs the investigating agency to ignore the new evidence.A person is subsequently punished based on the faulty evidence, appeals are filed and defeated largely due to the very public nature of the allegation. Someone was going to have to take the blame even if the evidence did not support the allegation.Would the intentional ignoring of real evidence by the investigating police agency, the direction of any kind by Provincial Justice authorities to ignore evidence, constitute obstruction of justice in any form? I am only interested in the administration of justice and not perjury against the person who filed the false complaint in the first place.
Hello:I am not aware of any decision that has involved criminal charges of obstruction of justice in such a matter. The criminal standard of proof needing evidence beyond a reasonable doubt and evidence of the intent of the person taking an action may make a conviction unlikely. The problem may be in that the decision on whether to investigate further or not is discretionary, and could be based on a number of different factors. One explanation is certainly that it was ignored to try and secure a conviction wrongfully. But if police or prosecutors could testify that they did not consider further investigation worthwhile for other reasons ( such as time, cost, not believing it would be fruitful or relevant), then it would be very difficult if not impishly to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these actions were intended to frustrate someone in carrying out their legal duty or to mislead a court or prevent evidence from coming to light.But a civil suit is another matter. There could be a successful c aim here for negligent investigation or malicious prosecution. Intentionally ignoring evidence that was pointing, or potentially pointing to the innocence of the accused could successfully support a claim in this regard. The standard for a civil suit is lower to succeed than a criminal matter. There have been successful suits for such claims. The crown prosecutors also have an ethical duty to fully disclose all relevant material to the defence. Failure to do so could result in not only a civil claim, but discipline from the law society, the governing body that regulates all lawyers in the province. Again, it may be a difference between not disclosing information, versus not directing an investigation that might have resulted in further relevant information. That is a subtle distinction, but could give the lawyers and police here an argument that what they did was properly within their discretion in how to proceed with an investigation.