Police Communications with Accused with Low Literacy Skills

The idea of being “legally informed”

Canadian courts can consider the accused person’s literacy skills when they decide whether to admit or exclude evidence. The law does not consider a person informed of their rights unless the person fully understands the information given to them.

If a person with low literacy skills does not understand their rights, they cannot make informed decisions based on those rights, and so they are not legally informed. This means

For example: It appears that accused person Jim Doe does not understand his right to a lawyer. It is not enough to repeat the standard legal language telling Doe of his right, because it seems he does not understand the formal language used. Doe can only make an informed decision about whether he wants a lawyer if he fully understands the effects of whatever decision he makes.

So the police must make reasonable efforts to make sure Doe truly understands his right to a lawyer.

The duties of the police

The police have both legal and ethical duties to make sure that a person fully understands the oral and written information that police give to them. Ignoring these obligations may result in clearance rates dropping and