An Infection of Noble Causes: An Examination of the Effects of Noble-Cause Corruption on the Canadian Justice System


  • Ciara Burrows


Influenza does not usually pose a significant threat to one’s overall health. Most people who contract the seasonal illness can easily overcome their flu-like symptoms with over-the-counter medication. In some cases, however, influenza can expose a person to more serious bacterial infections like pneumonia. Pre-existing conditions, respiratory illness for example, increase the likelihood that infections like pneumonia will enter the body successfully, spread through the bloodstream, and trigger a multi-system infection (Ducharme, 2018). While such instances are rare, the results can be deadly.

Noble-cause corruption is a form of corruption that occurs when individuals adhere to the problematic reasoning system of ‘the ends justify the means’ (Grometstein, 2005). Noble-cause corruption can be likened to influenza in the way that it affects the criminal justice system. We can think of it as an infection that causes the justice system to develop seemingly harmless ‘symptoms’ (or signs) of impaired function in the form of unit failures (Thompson, 2008). Pre-existing institutional conditions (Joy, 2006), like the tight coupling of crime-fighting units (Thompson, 2008), significantly increase the likelihood that more severe infections, such as socio-legal pressures, will successfully infiltrate the justice system and distort the conduct of individual agents. These factors work individually and together to produce consequences that are potentially lethal for due process and may result in wrongful convictions.