Extremely drunk: The feds should explain the new law

Ottawa –

A House of Commons committee has urged in a new report that the federal government should launch a public awareness campaign to clearly explain the extreme intoxication policy that caused confusion when legislation was rushed earlier this year.

The law updates the Penal Code after a Supreme Court ruling in May struck down a ban on using narcissism as a legal defense in criminal cases.

Members of Congress unanimously agreed to pass the law in June, put it on the record as soon as possible and convene the House Judiciary Committee to study its implementation.

The committee’s report, filed Tuesday, said there had been “a wave of misinformation, particularly on social media and among young people,” following the Supreme Court ruling.

The report found that many people believed that simple intoxication — for example, drinking alcohol — could be changed as a defense against sexual assault.

The new law defines “extreme intoxication” as behavior that renders a person unconscious or unable to consciously control himself. The government insists this is a high standard that is rarely used as a defense and cannot be caused by alcohol alone.

The law establishes a standard of criminal responsibility when a person commits a crime “in a state of extreme intoxication caused by negligent self-inflicted.” Courts will need to consider whether a “reasonable person” could have foreseen that drug or alcohol use would result in extreme intoxication and cause the defendant to harm others.

Jennifer Dunne, executive director of the Center for Battered Women in London, told lawmakers in October that some women worry that “perpetrators, mostly men, may automatically assume that they won’t be held accountable if they’re drunk.”

The committee’s report highlights the need for a sound public understanding of the new law, particularly in the context of sexual assault.

“Some victims may ultimately decide not to report a sexual assault if the offender is under the influence of narcotics, if they believe they will not be believed or if the offender can easily and successfully defend extreme intoxication,” it said, noting that only about 100 Six of the sexual assaults were reported to the police.

Some also mistakenly believe that the “extremely intoxicated” defense can be used in DUI cases, the study said.

The parliamentary committee that studied the law after it passed recommended that the government launch a public awareness campaign to communicate in plain language what the law actually does and why it is needed.

It also urged the government to retain data on the use of extreme intoxication as a defense and to review the law within three years.

At a Senate committee meeting last week, Attorney General David Lametti said the recommendations would be “carefully evaluated.”

“I would never say no to a good idea if it helps us improve our criminal law,” he said.

In a ruling in May, the Supreme Court declared a previous version of the criminal code’s “extreme intoxication” rule unconstitutional.

In 1995, the Liberal government of Jean Chretien added the old wording in response to a 1994 Supreme Court decision acquitting a man of sexual assault for drinking alcohol while committing the crime Got drowsy.

It is designed to prevent similar acquittals.

But the court said it meant a person could be convicted without the prosecution having to prove they had acted voluntarily or that they had intended to commit the crime – although “guilty conduct” and “guilty mind” are often a key factor in finding someone to be convicted. when guilty.

The court decision said parliament could introduce new legislation to update language to make “extremely intoxicated” people responsible for their violent crimes.

The Canadian Press report was first published on December 13, 2022.

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