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Self‑induced intoxication and the Defence to an offence against the bodily integrity of another person

A court must consider the specific principles that govern the insanity defence in order to determine whether s. 16 Cr. C. is applicable. If that defence does not apply, the court can then consider whether the defence of self‑induced intoxication under s. 33.1 Cr. C. is applicable if it is appropriate to do so on the facts of the case. Intoxication and insanity are two distinct legal concepts.

An accused who wishes to successfully raise the insanity defence must meet the requirements of a two‑stage statutory test. The first stage involves characterizing the mental state of the accused. The key issue to be decided at trial at this stage is whether the accused was suffering from a mental disorder in the legal sense at the time of the alleged events. The second stage of the defence provided for in s. 16 Cr. C. concerns the effects of the mental disorder. At this stage, it must be determined whether, owing to his or her mental condition, the accused was incapable of knowing that the act or omission was wrong. In the instant case, it is not in dispute that B was incapable of distinguishing right from wrong at the material time. Therefore, the only issue in this appeal is whether the psychosis resulted from a “mental disorder” within the meaning of s. 16 Cr. C.

Toxic psychosis does not always result from a “mental disorder”. In Stone, Bastarache J. proposed an approach for distinguishing toxic psychoses that result from mental disorders from those that do not. This approach is structured around two analytical tools, namely the internal cause factor and the continuing danger factor, and certain policy considerations.

The internal cause factor, the first of the analytical tools, involves comparing the accused with a normal person. The comparison between the accused and a normal person will be objective and may be based on the psychiatric evidence. The more the psychiatric evidence suggests that a normal person, that is, a person suffering from no disease of the mind, is susceptible to such a state, the more justified the courts will be in finding that the trigger is external. Such a finding would exclude the condition of the accused from the scope of s. 16 Cr. C. The reverse also holds true.

The second analytical tool, the continuing danger factor, is directly related to the need to ensure public safety.

The foregoing conclusion leads to the question whether s. 33.1 Cr. C. is applicable. This provision applies where three conditions are met: (1) the accused was intoxicated at the material time; (2) the intoxication was self‑induced; and (3) the accused departed from the standard of reasonable care generally recognized in Canadian society by interfering or threatening to interfere with the bodily integrity of another person. Where these three things are proved, it is not a defence that the accused lacked the general intent or the voluntariness required to commit the offence. Section 33.1 Cr. C. therefore applies to any mental condition that is a direct extension of a state of intoxication. There is no threshold of intoxication beyond which s. 33.1 Cr. C. does not apply to an accused, which means that toxic psychosis can be one of the states of intoxication covered by this provision.

Source: R. v. Bouchard-Lebrun, 2011 SCC 58

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