Author: Lawrence, Michelle Sheilia
Under investigation in this study are accused persons found to have committed criminal acts while in a state of substance-induced psychosis, where intoxication was voluntary. Its objectives were to determine the treatment at law and in practice of individuals in these circumstances, to identify any forensic and legal factors that contribute to differences in outcome in the criminal justice system, and to assess the extent to which these outcomes accord with underlying theoretical constructs and Charter values. Legal and qualitative research methodologies were employed, the latter of which took the form of interviews with criminal justice actors involved in the management of cases in British Columbia. The findings reveal a disconcerting degree of variation in approach, so much so that opposite results have been achieved in cases with relatively similar facts. In R. v. Bouchard-Lebrun,  3 S.C.R. 575, the Supreme Court of Canada clarified the law. It prescribed a legal framework for the application of the not-criminally-responsible-by-reason-of-mental-disorder defence (“NCRMD”) in cases involving substance-induced psychosis. Significant questions remain, however, not least of which is the constitutionality of the guilt-by-proxy regime embodied in section 33.1 of the Criminal Code. More problematic is the question of whether forensic psychiatrists are in a position to provide evidence of the relative impact of substance use and underlying neurobiological factors, and whether a prevailing lack of confidence in the forensic mental health system will deter legal counsel from recommending the defence of NCRMD, even if that evidence becomes available. The study concludes with recommendations for law reform and future research.
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Thesis advisor: Verdun-Jones, Simon
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