Defendants charged with violent crimes like murder and sexual assault can use self-induced extreme intoxication — known as “undisordered automatism” — as a defense in criminal court, the court ruled on Friday. Supreme Court of Canada.
The court ruled that a 1995 law prohibiting this type of defense violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“Its impact on the principles of fundamental justice is disproportionate to its overriding public benefits. It should therefore be declared unconstitutional and of no force or effect,” Judge Nicholas Kasirer pointed out.
The law violated the Charter because the defendant’s decision to get drunk does not mean he planned to commit a violent offence, Kasirer said. It also allowed courts to convict a person without having to prove bad intentions, he added.
The issue came to the Supreme Court last fall and involved three separate cases. One involved David Sullivan of Calgary, who took a prescription drug known to cause psychosis in a suicide attempt in 2013, but ended up stabbing his mother, who he believed to be an alien at the time. there because of his psychotic state. .
Sullivan was barred from using the defense of extreme intoxication and was convicted of aggravated assault and assault with a weapon. But an appeals court later declared unconstitutional the law banning this type of defense and acquitted the man on both counts.
Prosecutors appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court, which upheld Sullivan’s acquittal with its decision on Friday. Canadian Justice Minister David Lametti said the government is carefully considering the decision.
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“It is extremely important to stress that today’s decision does not apply to the vast majority of cases involving a person who commits a criminal offense while intoxicated,” Lametti pointed out in a statement.
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