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Supreme Court decision could have reprocussions on victims of serious crimes

Posted on 18 May 2022 by Ryan Dahlman

Sometimes as a country, we overthink everything, and when I say we, I mean the Supreme of Court of Canada. 

In a world where it feels like the rights of the accused and perpetrator supersede the victims, May 13th decision by the Supreme Court should leave people shaking their heads, if not their bodies with concern.

The Supreme Court on Friday the 13th, appropriately made a decision which maybe unlucky for many victims, the court ruled that self-induced extreme intoxication by external means is a defence in violent crime cases.

This overruled a government law from 1995 which was supported by victims’ groups including those advocating for women and children victims of crime. According to The Criminal Law Notebook, Automatism is “a state of impaired consciousness”. The term “automatism” refers to the involuntary conduct that is the “product of a mental state in which the conscious mind is disassociated from the part of the mind that controls action”. Accordingly, automatism relates only to the (action) of the offence as it affects the voluntariness of the accused’s actions.”

Comparatively, ”’Mental disorder is defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code as a ‘disease of the mind’. It is a question of law for the trial judge to determine what constitutes a ‘disease of the mind’ or a ‘mental disorder’. The Supreme Court of Canada’s judgement in R. v. Cooper [1980] 1SCR 1149 as stated in R. v. Rabey [1980] 2SRC 513 is the authority on the meaning of ‘disease of the mind’:

…. Disease of the mind embraces any illness, disorder or abnormal condition which impairs the human mind and its functioning, excluding, however, self induced states caused by alcohol or drugs as well as transitory mental states such as hysteria and concussion. In order to support a defence of insanity the disease must, of course, be of such intensity as to render the accused incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the violent act or of knowing it was wrong.’”

In their explanation, the judges felt the number of cases which would be affected by this decision would be minimal. 

“Its impact on the principles of fundamental justice is disproportionate to its overarching public benefits. It should therefore be declared unconstitutional,” said Justice Nicholas Kasirer who was representing the Supreme Court justices, who were unanimous of the ruling.

Uh, huh. So, if a person chooses to get intensely inebriated and is declared that under special circumstances the person couldn’t control their actions in committing of crimes charged to them, they can be acquitted.

Federal Justice Minister David Lametti said Ottawa was carefully reviewing the decision.

“It is critically important to emphasize that today’s decision does not apply to the vast majority of cases involving a person who commits a criminal offence while intoxicated,” he said in a statement to Rueters.

Will this ruling by the Supreme Court affect all related cases? No, but there we will be perpetrators who will get away with crimes, just because they made the choice to get induced with some sort of artificial stimulant. 

Plus it is another opportunity for those especially gifted lawyers to find some sort of loop hole. 

It would be nice if the law and the penalties assigned to them were simple, straightforward and when it is obvious — prosecutable.

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