WDW101Y1 Lecture Notes - Mattress, Epiglottis, Criminal Negligence

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Published on 23 Oct 2012
WDW225 Lecture 5 10/18/2012
The End of Actus Reus
Actus Reus
- Set out in the Criminal Code
- Involves an act or omission
- May involve a specified consequence (causation)
- May involve a specific circumstances (lack of consent)
- Must be voluntary
o Must be conscious act
o Accused must have an operating mind
o Accused must be capable of making a decision
Voluntariness: Automatism
R. v. Stone (1999, S.C.C.) (major shift on the law of automatism, Stone changes the test)
Stabbed his wife 47 times; she insulted him; he felt a “woosh”; when he focussed again, she
had been stabbed
Two step approach
(1) did the accused act involuntarily?
- Burden on the accused (balance of probabilities)
the civil standard of proof, simply “more likely than not, 50%+1
(2) is it insane or non-insane automatism?
- Presumption (of voluntariness) that it is a disease of the mind (BIG change
from Parks and Rabey)
for the accused to approve that the act was voluntarily > call evidence on a balance
of probabilities
- Holistic test: does society require ongoing protection from the accused?
(internal/external, continuing anger, policy considerations, reasonableness of response)
insane automatism: not criminally responsible
non insane automatism: absolute acquittal
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; acquitted at trial
ISSUES: was his conduct involuntary? if so, was it the produce of a mental disorder/disease
of the mind?
Doherty J.A.:
- Personifies one of the most difficult problems encountered in the criminal law.
- Sexually assaulted a defenceless, young victim while asleep.
- Automatism brought on by parasomnia renders his actions non-culpable
- Behaviour is potentially dangerous and raises legitimate public safety concerns.
- Outright acquittal does nothing to address the potential danger posed by the
respondent’s condition.
Doherty J.A.
- Conduct was involuntary
- Community has an interest in assessing and managing dangerousness
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- Categorization as “mentally ill” not the issue
- Parks does not apply after Stone
o Presumed to be a disease of the mind
o Focus on risk of recurrence
Some evidence that it was the product of the disease of the mind
o Defining something as a “disease of the mind” is largely a policy
- New trial ordered to determine whether NCR
- The likelihood of reoccurrence
Automatism: insane vs. non-insane automastism
Everyones is presumed voluntarily, if presumed involuntarily will be categorized as insane
categories unless through medical elements > non-insane auomastism
“must not bring the justice system into disrepute”
Insane automastism
Non-insane automastism
- “Disease of the mind” – not purely a
medical decision
- Has legal, policy and medical
elements (exemption from liability;
protection of the public)
- Malfunctioning that is internal to the
- Results in a finding that the accused
is “not criminally responsible on
account of a mental illness” – s. 16
- External cause
- Transient disturbance of
- Results in a not guilty finding
because the actus reus was not
- Actus reus usually involves an act of commission (positive act)
- BUT can sometimes involve an act of omission (failure to act)
- For omission to be sufficient to establish crimina liability, there ust be a legal duty to
- Criminal Code creates legal duties
- 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 had been drinking together at Beardsley’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 assist
her; she never regained consciousness and died
- 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
criminally liable
- ISSUE: did he have a legal obligation to take all reasonable steps to save Burns? or is
it merely a moral obligation?
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