The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that defendants charged with violent crimes such as murder and sexual assault can use extreme self-inflicted intoxication as protection, overturning a federal law backed by women’s advocacy groups.
The Supreme Court on Friday said a law passed by parliament in 1995 banning protection was unconstitutional and violates the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
His influence on the principles of fundamental justice is disproportionate to his general public benefits. Therefore, it should be declared unconstitutional and without power or effect, writing about a unanimous supreme court, Judge Nicholas Kasirer said of the law.
The question was whether defendants charged with a violent crime in a criminal court could raise as protection the extreme intoxication known as the automatism of non-mental disorders.
In doing so, defendants may claim that their actions were involuntary as a result of taking drugs or alcohol and, as a result, they could not be held criminally liable for their actions.
Federal Justice Minister David Lametti said Ottawa was carefully considering the decision.
It is extremely important to note that today’s decision does not apply to the vast majority of cases involving a person who commits a criminal offense while intoxicated, he said in a statement.
The court said it is the law in Canada that drunkenness without automatism is not a protection for the type of violent crime in question.
Canadian courts have been divided on the issue, while women’s advocacy groups have said the law is necessary to protect women and children as violence affects them disproportionately.
Four out of every five victims of intimate partner violence were women, and women were five times more likely to experience sexual assault in 2019, according to Canadian government data.
The case came before the supreme court last fall when judges heard arguments about the constitutionality of the statute, as it dealt with three separate cases. In Friday’s ruling, the court said one trial could be ordered in one case, while reinstating one innocence in another.
The third case involved David Sullivan, who attempted suicide on December 1, 2013, taking a prescription drug known to cause psychosis. In a psychotic state he stabbed his mother, whom he thought was an alien. Sullivan was convicted of aggravated assault and assault with a weapon after the judge said he could not use an extreme drunken defense.
However, the appellate court found the law of extreme intoxication unconstitutional and acquitted Sullivan of both charges. Prosecutors appealed the decision to the high court, which upheld his release in Friday’s ruling.
Kasirer wrote that there are other ways for parliament to achieve its goals of tackling extreme drunken violence.
In 1994, the supreme court had ruled in favor of an extreme defense of intoxication by a suspect who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in a wheelchair while he was drunk.
In response to the Supreme Court ruling, the Canadian parliament passed a law banning defendants from using extreme intoxication as protection in violent crime cases.
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