Editorial: Let's be clear on the law about drinking and assault

September 12, 2018
Article Source
Toronto Star

From a Toronto Star editorial: Here we go again.

Just as the #MeToo and Time's Up movements are beginning to hold men accountable for unwanted sexual advances and violence against women, an Ontario court has said those accused of sexual assault have the right to claim they were too intoxicated to know what they were doing.

How is it that when women are drunk they can be deemed capable of consenting to sexual activity, but when men drink too much they can be absolved of their actions?

Ontario's attorney general, Caroline Mulroney, should order an appeal of this ruling.

Women thought they had won this battle almost a generation ago when the federal government in 1995 amended the Criminal Code to outlaw the defence of self-induced, extreme intoxication in cases of assault.

This was in response to an odious ruling upheld by the Supreme Court the previous year, when a chronic alcoholic was acquitted of sexual assault because he was too drunk to know what he was doing when he pulled a 65-year-old woman from her wheelchair, dragged her to her bed and raped her.

The court agreed with the trial judge that someone incapable of forming criminal intent cannot be found guilty and that the man's extreme intoxication -- to the point of automatism or insanity -- must be recognized as a defence. An understandable public outcry ensued, prompting Parliament to change the law.

But since then, provincial courts across the country, including at least five in Ontario, have ruled the federal law unconstitutional and have allowed men to claim extreme intoxication as a defence for sexual assault. The final determinations of the cases have been mixed. But none has been appealed.

Read more: Let's be clear on the law about drinking and assault