An Ontario judge has ruled that the defence of extreme intoxication in sexual assault cases is once again valid in Ontario.
Superior Court Justice Nancy Spies ruled recently in the case of R. v. Cameron McCaw (“McCaw”) that section 33.1 of the Criminal Code, which states that self-induced intoxication is not a defence, is unconstitutional as it violates a defendant’s right to be presumed innocent and the right to fundamental justice.
HISTORY OF THE DEFENCE OF EXTREME INTOXICATION
The Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) ruled in 1994 that drunkenness in its extreme is a defence to sexual assault. This is known as the Daviault decision. The SCC upheld a trial judge’s acquittal of chronic alcoholic, Henri Daviault. Daviault was permitted to use extreme intoxication as a defence against charges that he sexually assaulted a disabled 65-year-old woman. Daviault had consumed up to eight beers and almost an entire large bottle of brandy. The court ruled that depriving Daviault of the drunkenness defence would violate his Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”).
Following this ruling, the federal government quickly introduced a law abolishing the defence of self-induced intoxication for crimes involving assault (section 33.1 of the Criminal Code).
33.1 (1) It is not a defence to an offence referred to in subsection (3) that the accused, by reason of self-induced intoxication, lacked the general intent or the voluntariness required to commit the offence, where the accused departed markedly from the standard of care as described in subsection (2).
33.1 (2) For the purposes of this section, a person departs markedly from the standard of reasonable care generally recognized in Canadian society and is thereby criminally at fault where the person, while in a state of self-induced intoxication that renders the person unaware of, or incapable of consciously controlling, their behaviour, voluntarily or involuntarily interferes or threatens to interfere with the bodily integrity of another person.
WHAT HAPPENED IN THE CASE OF R. v. MCCAW?
On July 11, 2015, the alleged victim, referred to as K.B., and her ex-boyfriend (also the roommate of McCaw) attended a pool party from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. where they consumed a lot of alcohol. K.B., her ex-boyfriend, and another man then met up with McCaw at his apartment . They had a few more drinks and then went outside to the parking lot to smoke. K.B. was so intoxicated that she had to be carried inside the apartment and placed on the couch in the living room where she passed out, fully clothed. McCaw and his two friends went to a nearby bar to continue drinking. McCaw and the ex-boyfriend then returned to the apartment. At some point during the evening, McCaw allegedly consumed marijuana and GBD, the “date-rape drug”.
K.B. alleges that “she awoke to find Mr. McCaw touching her sexually and kissing her and then engaging in sexual intercourse with her.” She initially thought this was her ex-boyfriend, so she did not resist. She then realized that it was McCaw. The victim left the apartment with her ex-boyfriend, leaving McCaw sitting in an arm chair, where he appeared to be sleeping and holding a pair of scissors.
The victim reported the sexual assault to police around 5 a.m. the next morning. Police proceeded to arrest and charge McCaw with sexual assault.
JUSTICE SPIES’ DECISION
Prior to McCaw’s trial, an application was filed by McCaw’s lawyer seeking an order affirming that section 33.1 of the Criminal Code was not in effect as it violated McCaw’s rights under the Charter. Allegedly, McCaw will testify at trial that he had sexual intercourse with A.B., but performed these acts without having intended to do so.
Justice Spies stated that section 33.1 “relieves the Crown of proving the specific mens rea for the charged offence and instead allows for proof of guilt on a different, and arguable lower, standard. It does this even where the state of the accused’s intoxication is so extreme that it reasonably gives rise to a doubt about whether the accused intended the offending action. The prospect of conviction in the face of a reasonable doubt offends both s. 7 and s. 11(d) of the Charter.”
Justice Spies also maintained that section 33.1 relieves the Crown of proving the voluntariness of the act (a mental element of the crime), again infringing an accused’s Charter rights.
In conclusion, Justice Spies allowed McCaw’s application and affirmed that section 33.1 of the Criminal Code is of no force and effect in Ontario. Thus, this decision does not apply directly to any other province in Canada.
Justice Spies provided her ruling on the defence of extreme drunkenness prior to McCaw’s trial. This allows McCaw to use the defence at trial on the charge that he sexually assaulted a woman in a Toronto apartment.
McCaw must prove at trial that it was more likely than not that he was intoxicated to the point of automatism. This is described as a robotic state where he was not aware of his actions.
McCaw’s trial begins on September 12. We will provide updates in this blog as new developments regarding this case become available.
In the meantime, if you have been charged with a sexual assault offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Barrison Law online or at 905-404-1947. We have a 24-hour phone service for your convenience.