Nuancing Feminist Perspectives on the Voluntary Intoxication Defence by FLORENCE ASHLEY
The defence of voluntary intoxication, which has been back in the news as a result of the recent decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in R v Sullivan, is frequently decried as antifeminist. Pursuant to the defence, defendants who acted while intoxicated to the point of automatism or severe psychosis may be acquitted. This article seeks to complicate feminist perspectives on the voluntary intoxication defence, showing that the issue of voluntary intoxication is far more nuanced than some suggest. After summarizing the state of the law of the voluntary intoxication defence and reviewing its prevalence in the jurisprudence, this article critically reflects on the voluntary intoxication defence and highlights how its removal contributes to the criminalization of mental illness and weakens crucial criminal law standards used to protect the most vulnerable — both problems from a feminist standpoint. The article concludes that a feminist analysis of the voluntary intoxication defence requires more nuanced policy discussions than those that have prevailed in the public sphere.