Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Information Definition:

Canada: the charging document in a criminal prosecution.

Related Terms: Accusation, Indictment, Accused

Although there was, historically, a distinction to be made between an indictment and an information (see R v Slator below), the two terms are now used interchangeably.1

The information lists the charges and has such other detailed information such that the accused knows what he or she is facing, such as the date and venue of the alleged offence, and such other information such as the court before which the Information will brought, and the Court file number.

Errors on the Information can lead to the Information being quashed. In other cases, the information may have been laid outside of time limits set out in relevant statutes.

The Courts are notoriously strict in regards to errors on the face of the Information, the law reports being rife with example of Informations being quashed for un-initialled erasures2 or the combination of summary conviction offences with indictable offences on the same Information.3

But in R v Sault Ste Marie, Justice Dickson noted that the traditional high technical standard to which Canadian courts held the Crown in regards to the form and content of informations:

"... grew from the humane desire of judges to alleviate the severity of the law in an age when many crimes were still classified as felonies, for which the punishment was death by the gallows. The slightest defect made an indictment an nullity.

"That age has passed. Parliament has made it abundantly clear in those sections of the Criminal Code having to do with the form of indictments and informations that the punctilio of an earlier age is no longer to bind us. We must look for substance and not petty formalities."

The information forms the basis of the entire criminal proceeding and must be amended, for example, if there is a plea bargain or if any charges are dropped or added during the course of the criminal proceeding such as, for example, evidence which arises during subsequent investigation or at the preliminary inquiry.

On the historic distinction between an information and an indictment, this from the 1881 British, Queen's Bench Division case, R. v Slator:

"A well-defined distinction exists and has long existed between an indictment and an information. An indictment is an accusation found by an inquest of twelve or more upon their oath, whilst an information is a proceeding by the Attorney General of his own motion without the intervention of a grand jury."

In Canada, grand juries have long since been abolished and prosecutions are approved by the attorney general of Canada or or a particular province or territory.

French: dénonciation.

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