R. v. Wong, [1990] 3 S.C.R. 36

The accused, Santiago Wong, was charged with maintaining an illegal gambling operation, based on surveillance footage from a camera placed in his hotel room by police without prior judicial authorization. The trial judge found this tactic to be an unreasonable infringement of Wong’s rights under Section 8 of the Charter; however, this conclusion was overturned by the Ontario Court of Appeal.

When the matter went before the Supreme Court of Canada, the majority found that Mr. Wong had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of his hotel room and that the unauthorized surveillance constituted a “search” within the meaning of Section 8.

The court also concluded, however, that “the police acted in good faith and had reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the offence had been committed.” On this basis, it was determined that the admission of evidence would not bring the administration of justice into disrepute.

The majority’s decision in this regard was influenced by the behaviour of the accused himself, who had promoted the illegal gambling operation to strangers and effectively invited the public into his hotel room. Chief Justice Lamer authorized a dissenting opinion finding that Wong had no reasonable expectation of privacy at all in the hotel room, in view of his own conduct.

Decided by the Supreme Court of Canada on November 22, 1990.
Click here for the full text of the decision.

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Filed under Section 24: Enforcement of Rights, Section 8: Search & Seizure

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