The Right to Silence and the Pendulum Swing

Variations in Canadian and Scottish Criminal Law


  • Kathryn M. Campbell University of Ottawa



right against self-incrimination, confessions rule, comparative law, right to silence, limitations, Canada, Scotland


The right to silence is afforded to suspects in criminal cases as part of a number constitutional protections contained within Canadian law through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is closely linked to other such rights, including the right to counsel, the right against self-incrimination and the presumption of innocence. Moreover, in some cases, the denial of this right has resulted in convictions in error through false confessions and wrongful convictions. Decisions by the Supreme Court in Canada in recent times can be viewed as a slow encroachment onto individual Charter rights in favour of the needs of law enforcement. In Scotland, until recently, while afforded a right to silence suspects could still be questioned for up to six hours without a lawyer present. While other measures existed to protect an individual’s right to a fair trial, such practices were out of step with the European Convention on Human Rights Article 6(1) right to a fair trial. In the decision in Cadder v HMA, greater protections to suspects were introduced regarding the right to silence and the right to counsel, and the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 later consolidated the relevant law on this matter. The focus of this paper will be to examine how the right to silence in both Canadian and Scottish law has evolved through statute and case law and the implications of this for law enforcement practices, the protection of rights and the safety of convictions.



2020-12-21 — Updated on 2021-01-04


How to Cite

Campbell, K. M. (2021). The Right to Silence and the Pendulum Swing : Variations in Canadian and Scottish Criminal Law. The Wrongful Conviction Law Review, 1(3), 291–313. (Original work published December 21, 2020)