Ontario court throws out law barring self-induced intoxication as defence for sexual assault — (The National Post)

SSRI Ed note: Man overdoses on Wellbutrin, decides his elderly mother is an alien, stabs and almost kills her.

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The National Post

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

In throwing out the provision, the Court of Appeal found its harmful effects were contrary to the principles of fundamental justice.

A law that bans an accused from using intoxication as a defence in cases of sexual assault and other violent crimes tramples charter rights and is unconstitutional, Ontario’s top court ruled Wednesday.

In throwing out the provision, the Court of Appeal found its harmful effects were profound, and contrary to the principles of fundamental justice.

“It enables the conviction of individuals for acts they do not will,” the court said.

The ruling comes in a pair of separate cases the court described as “tragic.” In both, men became psychotic on drugs and killed or injured relatives.

In one case, a high school student, Thomas Chan, stabbed and killed his father and badly injured his father’s partner after he and friends had eaten psychedelic mushrooms. Witnesses said he went into a rage, ran into the frigid night yelling about Satan and God’s will, then repeatedly stabbed his father, who pleaded, “Thomas, it’s Daddy. It’s Daddy.”

In the second case, David Sullivan tried to kill himself with an overdose of the prescription stop-smoking drug Wellbutrin, which led to his belief in aliens he called “Archons.” Believing his elderly mother was an alien, he stabbed her in December 2013 as she screamed, “David, I’m your mother.” She survived.

Both men claimed they had no control over what they did — a state called automatism — because of their intoxication.

Usually, someone who successfully mounts an automatism defence will be found not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder. However, the defence can also be used in rare cases in which an accused does not claim an underlying mental disease and, if successful, leads to an acquittal.

At trial, the men argued “non-mental disorder automatism” but ran into a roadblock in the form of Section 33.1 of the Criminal Code. The section was enacted in 1995 after a court ruling recognized extreme intoxication could be a defence in sexual assaults, and sparked a public backlash.

The provision specifically outlaws the automatism defence in cases of violence when an accused’s intoxication was self-inflicted.