WDW101Y1 Lecture Notes - Actus Reus, Canadian Red Cross, Mens Rea

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5 Feb 2013
- Every criminal offences has :
(physical element) + (mental element)
Criminal act + criminal intent
- Only criminal offences needs both
- Actus reus
o Set out in criminal code
o Involves an act/omission
o May involve a specified consequences (Causation)
o May involve a specific circumstances (lack of consent)
o Must be voluntary
- insane automatism = not criminally responsible on account of a mental illness = ongoing supervision, indefinite, can involve being
detained in psychiatric facility for rest of your life
- non-insane automatism = acquitted
- internal; internal trigger
- external; external trigger
R. v. Parks
Facts: drove 23km to his in-laws house; attacked and killed his mother-in-law; seriouslyinured his father-in-law; charged with murder and
attempted murder; evidence established he was sleep-walking at that time; evidence established that people who are sleepwalking cannot
“think, reflect or perform voluntary acts”
- issue was not whether he acted voluntarily or not, once it was established he was sleep-walking, need to know if it was insane or
non-insane automatism
Issue: should the jury have been left to decide between insane and non-insane automatism?
Answer: there was no evidence that condition was the product of a disease of the mind; only non-insane automatism was available...he was
acting involuntary, not the product of disease of the mind, thus non-insane and acquitted
SCC confirmed that voluntariness is part of the ARburden on the Crown to prove,
Defining a “disease of the mind”
a) consider medical evidence (court says that it doesn’t work to depend on medical evidence because it has significant social
consequences, talking about potentially reliving people with acquittals, don’t want to just leave that to doctors to decide...does
the person pose on-going danger, that justice system need to monitor)
b) legal/policy considerations?
- Internal vs. External causes
- Continuing danger
- Risk of recurrence
- Other?
*if you put voluntariness into mens rea, this argument would never be available for non-criminal offence, we don’t want do punish people
for acting involuntary, it has to be in AR so it is available in non-mens rea requirement, kept the defense available for every offence
- not likely that Parks will reoffend again
R. v. Stone (1999 SCC)
Stabbed his wife 47 times; she insulted him; he felt a “whoosh”; when he focused again, she had been stabbed
2 step approach
1) Did the accused act involuntarily?
- Burden on the accused (balance of probabilities) (leaving aside whether it was insane or not, up to accused to establish more likely
than not, they were acting involuntarily)
2) Is it insane or non-insane automatism
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- presumption that is a disease of the mind (BIG change from Parks and Rabey); starting point is that every involuntary act is a
disease of mind, and enter the insane automatism, unless can establish otherwise
- holistic test: does society require ongoing protection from the accused? (internal/external, continuing anger, policy considerations,
reasonableness of response);
Result: presumption stands, and it is insane automatism
R. v. Luedecke (2008, Ont. C.A.)
FACTS: admitted he had non-consensual sex with the complainant; claimed he was asleep at the time; had a history of engaging in sexual
activity while asleep
Doherty J.A.:
- conduct was involuntary
- community still has an interest insassessing and managing dangerousness
- categorization as “mentally ill” not the issues
- Parks does not apply after Stone
o Presumed to be a disease of the mind
o Rocus on risk of recurrence
o Defining something as a “disease of the mind” is largely a policy consideration
*the label doesn’t necessary fit, but created a whole legal test that brings in broader social policy issue...if their is a risk of recurrence or
conduct itself call for on-going public protection will be considered a disease of the mind
-should understand how court distinguish b/t insane and non-insane automatism and voluntariness
- Actus reususually involves an act of commission (positive act)
- BUT can sometimes involve an act of omission (failure to act)
- Must be a legal duty to act
- Criminal code creates legal studies
- Failure to carry out legal duty = actus reus
People v. Beardsley (US Case)
FACTS: Beardsley was charged with manslaughter in the death of Burns. They have been drinking together at Bearsley’s house; both were
extremely intoxicated; Burns sent someone to buy her morphine, she took 3 morphine tablets; Beardsley was too drunk to help her; he
asked someone else in the house to assit her; she never regained consciousness and died
THEORY OF LIABILITY: Beardsley owed a “duty of care” to Burns to take steps to protect her; his failure to take steps to protect her caused
her death; his failure to act (omission) makes him criminably liable
ISSUE: did he have aa legal obligation to take all reasonable steps to save Burns? Or is it merely a moral obligation
- This is significant, because we distinguish b/t legal and moral duty to act, which can form the basis of criminal liability if you don’t
do it
- Burns had voluntarily gone “carousing” with Beardsley
- Burns had experience with intoxicants
- Legal duty is not created by moral duty
- The mere fact Burns was Beardsley’s house did not create a legal duty...draw the line b/t civil and criminal liability,
- Beardsley had a moral duty to assist her but no legal duty
- Conviction set aside
s. 215(1) Everyone is under a legal duty
a) as a parent, foster parent, guardian or head of a family, ot provide necessaries of life for a child under the age of 16
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