Launching an investigation without a complaint unrealistic
Suggestions made since allegations against former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi have come to light that police can – and should – launch investigations without an official complaint are unrealistic, says Toronto criminal lawyer Matthew Friedberg.
“The police need a co-operative witness to a crime,” he says. “There is a fundamental difference between what I call ‘specific victim crime’ and where there is no specific victim. Where there is a specific victim to a specific incident with a story to tell, someone is required to tell that story fully and voluntarily to the police.”
Friedberg says this can be contrasted to ‘non-specific’ victim crime or what some people call ‘victimless crime’ where there are no voluntary witnesses and no specific story to tell.
“We often think of society in general as the victim of these crimes, things such as drug trafficking,” he says. “In these cases, the police have to employ surreptitious means to investigate these crimes such as undercover officers, agents, informants and wiretaps to name a few. The types of crimes Mr. Ghomeshi is being investigated for at the moment require real live witnesses who want to tell a story whether it be theirs or a witness to someone else’s story.”
Friedberg says it would be dangerous and unfair for the police to proactively investigate people for these kinds of crimes.