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Ontario court ruling regarding intoxication defence sparks outrage
Published Saturday, June 6, 2020 8:00PM EDT
KITCHENER -- An Ontario court ruling allowing people accused of violent crimes to argue they were so intoxicated they didn’t know what they were doing, has sparked concerns about how it applies to sexual assault trials.
“This becomes an added hurdle for young women who are navigating the system trying to figure out if they will ever, in fact, be able to go through the legal system for justice,” said Laura Mae Lindo, the MPP for Kitchener Centre.
The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that self-induced intoxication to the point of being in a state of psychosis may now be considered a lawful defence in violent crimes.
The decision comes after reviewing two cases in the appeal, both involving young men who were high on drugs and committed murder.
“He was not in control of his mind, not in control of his actions, no motive, no ill will,” said criminal defence lawyer Ari Goldkind.
The court found it unconstitutional to criminalize people who had no control over their bodies.
Legal experts say the defence must be able to prove that the accused acted involuntarily, but the chance of this standing up in court are slim.
“It’s probably zero point zero, zero, zero, zero zero, add four more zeroes, then a couple more zeroes, point one,” said Goldkind.
“The public should not fear that the court system this week made it easier for men charged with sexual assault offences to be acquitted of those charges.”
Sara Casselman, executive director at the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region, says she’s concerned about the defence being a possibility for violent crimes like sexual assault.
“The overwhelming message that it’s sending to our communities right now is that intoxication could be used as a defence,” she said. “In Canada, 63 per cent of women and girls that are killed are killed by someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol, so this could actually be used more often than we think.”
A petition has been created by MPP Jill Andrew urging the attorney general to appeal the decision. Fellow NDP Lindo is supporting the initiative.
“We won’t know for sure until a bunch of survivors are dragged through the legal system to find out what happens,” she said. “Have a higher court weigh the pros of this and help with direction so that survivors can feel safe.
“It comes as an opportunity for us to actually move forward as opposed to being dragged backwards, where survivors don’t feel like there’s any safe place for them to land.”
A spokesperson for Ontario’s Attorney General says the province will be asking Canada’s highest court to weigh in on the ruling.