Feb 17, 2021

Criminal Law: Automatism

R. v. Sullivan, 2020 ONCA 333 (CanLII)
Mr. Chan became intoxicated after ingesting magic mushrooms. He fatally stabbed his father and grievously injured his father’s partner. Mr. Sullivan became intoxicated by a heavy dose of a prescription drug consumed in a suicide attempt. He repeatedly stabbed his mother. Both men sought to raise non-mental disorder automatism as a defence in their respective trials. Section 33.1 of the Criminal Code precluded this defence in cases of assaults if automatism was self-induced by voluntary intoxication. The trial judge in Mr. Sullivan’s case rejected the argument s. 33.1 did not apply because intoxication resulted from a suicide attempt and was involuntary. The trial judge in Mr. Chan’s case dismissed a constitutional challenge to s. 33.1. Mr. Sullivan was convicted of aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and breaches of a non-communication order. Mr. Chan was convicted of manslaughter and aggravated assault. The C.A. held s. 33.1 is unconstitutional and of no force or effect. It ordered a new trial for Mr. Chan and acquitted Mr. Sullivan of aggravated assault and assault with a weapon.