Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Canada’s top court says voluntary overdose is a defense against violent crimes. Nation World News

Canada’s Supreme Court issued a major ruling on Friday allowing criminal defendants to use a defense known as self-induced extreme intoxication – including sexual assault – in cases involving assault.

Canada's top court says voluntary overdose is a defense against violent crimes. Nation World News

Effectively, it means defendants who voluntarily consume narcotics and then assault or interfere with another person’s bodily integrity, if they can prove that they are able to control their actions. were too drunk, they may have avoided conviction.

“To deprive a person of his liberty for involuntary conduct committed in a state similar to automatism – conduct which may not be criminal – based on personal responsibility for one’s actions in a system of criminal justice based on the principles of fundamental justice violates,” Justice Nichols wrote in the unanimous nine-judge decision of Kasir.

Under Section 33.1 of the Criminal Code, excessive intoxication – formally known as non-insanity automatism – cannot be used as a defense in criminal cases where the accused has voluntarily consumed the drug .

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The court’s decision declared that the section was unconstitutional.

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The court found that, despite the “plausible purpose” of the Criminal Code provision, it violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it is too broad.

“The legitimate goals of protecting the victims of these crimes and being accountable to the extremely self-intoxicated do not justify these breaches of the Charter, which fundamentally disturb the principles of criminal law,” the court said. he said. ruling.

“With S. 33.1, Parliament has created a meaningful risk of punishment and conviction of an extremely intoxicated person, who is perhaps guilty in some cases, but is innocent of the offense charged in accordance with the requirements of the Constitution.”

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In a written argument presented to the court as part of its deliberations, the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund warned that allowing defense in cases of voluntary overdose “privileged individual rights over vulnerable groups, including women”. Will happen. Children who are disproportionately at risk of drug violence.”

The group had argued in its fact, “The harm caused to women as a result of drunken violence is devastating and violates the right to safety and equality.”

“Holding individuals responsible for violent crimes committed in a state of self-induced intoxication is a pressing and substantial objective, given that failure to do so constitutes an excuse for such violence and reporting as an option for survivors.” discourages.”


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Canadian law defines automatism as “a state of unconsciousness that renders a person unable to consciously control his or her behavior in that state.”

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The same definition is used to support the defense of “crazy automaticity”, which is used in criminal cases where the accused is found not to be criminally responsible.

The federal government added a provision to the Criminal Code in 1995 in recognition of particular concern “that self-induced intoxication may be used to socially and legally excuse violence, especially violence against women and children.” could.”


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In the ruling, Kasser noted that the court’s decision striking down the provision “has no effect on the rule that intoxication less than automatism is not a defense of violent crimes of general intent, such as assault or sexual assault.”

He also wrote that there are still other avenues the government can consider to legislate around “extreme drug violence”.

“The sense that an accused who acts violently in a state of extreme self-induced intoxication is morally guilty is not beyond the reasonable reach of criminal law,” they wrote.

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“Protecting victims of violent crime – especially in light of the interests of equality and dignity of women and children who are vulnerable to narcotic sexual and domestic violence – is an important and important social objective.”

The decision went on to provide examples of ways the government could legislate.

For example, Kasirer suggested that an approach might be “if Parliament harms the crime of dangerous intoxication or intoxication that includes voluntary intoxication as a necessary element.”

“Parliament may also wish to study and regulate according to the nature and properties of intoxication. The general effects of the intoxicant, its legality, and the circumstances under which it was obtained and consumed are relevant to a marked departure standard.” can be.”

Attorney General and Justice Minister David Lametti said his office was assessing the decision.

He said in a statement after the decision, “Our government remains unwavering in its commitment to ensuring that our criminal justice system keeps communities safe, respects victims, holds criminals accountable, upholds all charter rights.” holds.”

“We are carefully reviewing the decision to determine its impact on victims as well as criminal law. It is important to emphasize that today’s ruling does not apply to the vast majority of cases that occur while intoxicated. associated with the person who has committed a criminal offence.

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The court on Friday issued three judgments on self-induced excessive intoxication. Three of the cases involved individuals who faced criminal prosecution after committing violence after using drugs.

One of those cases involved Thomas Chan, a Peterborough, Ont., man who had previously been convicted of murdering his father in December 2015 after consuming magical mushrooms and having hallucinations.

The Supreme Court ruling allows him to use an overdose defense in a new trial. Chan’s lawyers had previously sought to use the defense during his initial trial.

The main judgment was the case of an Alberta man named Matthew Winston Brown, who was acquitted in 2018 of violently assaulting a woman inside a home after consuming alcohol and magic mushrooms at a party.

The Crown had appealed for his acquittal.

The third case involved a Whitby, Ont., man named David Sullivan.

Sullivan, the court wrote, “voluntarily took a prescription drug overdose.” While disabled, he “attacked his mother with a knife and grievously injured her.”

He was charged and convicted of several crimes, but his lawyers appealed.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Nation World News Desk
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