Judicial Control of Informants, Spies, Stool Pigeons, and Agents Provocateurs, 60 Yale Law Journal 1091 (1951)
From early times law enforcement authorities have utilized informers. Their
value in ferreting out crime was recognized in the ancient practice of English
medieval law called approvement. Being arraigned on a charge of treason or
felony the approver confessed his guilt and, in order to obtain a pardon, offered
to appeal and convict other criminals called the appellees. If the appellees
were found guilty the approver was pardoned. If the appellees were acquitted,
the approver was hanged. The approvement was open to obvious abuses and
Sir Matthew Hale observed that "this course of admitting of approvers hath
been long disused, and the truth is, that more mischief hath come to good men
by these kind of approvements by false accusations of desperate villains, than
benefit to the public by the discovery and convicting of real offenders, gaolers
for their own profits often constraining prisoners to appeal honest men."
Date of Authorship for this Version
Donnelly, Richard C., "Judicial Control of Informants, Spies, Stool Pigeons, and Agents Provocateurs" (1951). Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 4766.