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ADMISSIONS OF ACCUSED

R. v. Streu, [1989] 1 S.C.R. 1521

Present:  Wilson, La Forest, L'Heureux-Dubé, Sopinka and Gonthier JJ.

on appeal from the court of appeal for alberta

   Evidence -- Admissibility -- Hearsay -- Accused admitting evidence as fact -- Police officer testifying as to what accused stated -- Whether or not accused's admission admissible.

   Appellant was found guilty of possession of stolen property having a value in excess of $200 and his conviction was upheld on appeal.  He sold the goods to a police officer, who had posed as a purchaser, for $125.  The officer testified that appellant, during conversation leading to the sale, had admitted that the tires and rims belonged to a friend who had "ripped them off".  It was assumed that, in the absence of the admission, the evidence was insufficient to meet the criminal standard of proof.  At issue was the admissibility of the admission and its evidentiary value.

   Held:  The appeal should be dismissed.

   A party making an admission may adopt a hearsay statement as his or her own for the purpose of admitting the facts therein.

   The rationale underlying the exclusion of hearsay evidence is primarily the inherent untrustworthiness of an extra-judicial statement which has been tendered without affording an opportunity to the party against whom it is adduced to cross-examine the declarant.  This rationale loses its force when the party relies on the hearsay statement in making an admission for he or she is presumably satisfied as to the reliability of the statement.  The admission, once established, should be treated no differently than if it had been made in the witness box where a belief or acceptance of a hearsay statement is taken as some evidence of the truth of its contents.  The weight to be given to that evidence is for the trier of fact.  On the other hand, a statement is not admissible as proof of the truth of its contents if the party simply reports a hearsay statement without either adopting it or indicating a belief in its truth.

   The admission in question in this appeal cannot be read as merely reporting a hearsay statement without more.  Appellant clearly was relying on the hearsay statement as being true; he either accepted it as being true or at least believed it to be true.  Whatever conclusion was reached by the trial judge about the source of the information upon which the appellant's submission was based, the evidence was admissible.

Jim O'Neil, LL.B.

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