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Bernard charged with sexual assault causing bodily harm. Despite having been drinking, Bernard was able to walk and see and speak clearly as well as put albums on the record player.  Bernard stated that his drunkenness caused the attack. Bernard was convicted at trial. His appeal was dismissed since Ont. C.A. held that sexual assault causing bodily harm is an offence of general intent, to which drunkenness cannot apply as a defence.


Is sexual assault causing bodily harm an offence of general or specific intent? Is self-induced drunkenness relevant to the issue of guilt or innocence in an offence of general intent?


Bernard’s appeal dismissed.


Reckless behaviour in attaining an acute level of intoxication affords the necessary evidence of the culpable mental condition in an offence of general intent.


General/Specific intent distinction:

General intent: only intent involved relates solely to the performance of the act with no ulterior intent or purpose.

Specific intent: involves performance of the actus reus coupled with intent or purpose going beyond mere performance of the questioned act. E.g. assault with intent to maim.

Sexual assault is a crime of violence with no requirement of an intent or purpose beyond the intentional application of force (Leary v. The Queen [1978]).

Wilson J.: (She agreed to dismiss the appeal but…) “I am less confident about the proposition accepted by my colleague that self-induced intoxication may substitute for the mental element required [when the offence occurred].”  Wilson J. held that in this case the accused wasn’t drunk enough but in other cases, extreme intoxication can be put forth as a defence for offences of general intent.

Dickson J.: dissenting because he feels the issue is not a “defence of drunkenness” but rather “whether the Crown should be relieved of [proving mens rea for the offence] because the accused was intoxicated.”

R. v. Daviault [1994] 3 S.C.R. 63


Daviault, aged 69 and a chronic alcoholic, was charged with sexually assaulting a wheelchair-bound woman, aged 65, in her home after drinking 7 bottles of beer and the better part of a bottle of brandy. That amount of alcohol would kill or render comatose the average person.  The trial judge acquitted on account of his reasonable doubt that Daviault had the necessary minimal intent by virtue of his extreme intoxication to the point of automatism as per Wilson J. in Bernard. Qc C.A. convicted.


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