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Case Briefs

R v Briscoe

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FactsEdit

Courtepatte, a 13‑year‑old girl, and a young friend were lured into a car on the false promise of being taken to a party. Briscoe drove the group (Laboucan and three youths) to a secluded golf course. Laboucan had said earlier in the day that he would like to find someone to kill and Courtepatte was chosen as the victim. On their arrival, Briscoe opened the trunk and, at Laboucan's request, handed him some pliers. Briscoe stayed behind at the car as the others went onto the golf course under the guise of seeking the party. Briscoe rejoined the group around the time that one of the youths hit Courtepatte from behind with a wrench. For a moment, Briscoe held on to Courtepatte and angrily told her to be quiet or shut up. Briscoe then stood by and watched as Courtepatte was brutally raped and murdered. All five persons involved were charged with kidnapping, aggravated assault and first degree murder and the two adults, Briscoe and Laboucan, were jointly tried by a judge alone. Briscoe was acquitted. The trial judge found that the actus reus for being a party to the offences was proven, but not the mens rea because Briscoe did not have the requisite knowledge that Laboucan intended to commit the crimes. The Court of Appeal overturned the acquittals and ordered a new trial, holding that the trial judge erred in law by failing to consider wilful blindness.

IssueEdit

  1. What is required to make a finding of willful blindness?
  2. Was the accused party to the sexual assault and murder?

DecisionEdit

Appeal dismissed.

ReasonsEdit

Charron, writing for the court, rejected the argument brought forward by the appellant that willful blindness was but a heightened form of recklessness. Willful blindness is best understood as "deliberate ignorance" as it connotes "an actual process of supression a suspicion". From the statements made to police by Briscoe where he is quoted "That's what I seen. And I was like ahh fuck I don't wanna know" it is clear that there was a deliberate supression of questioning and a strong suspicion that someone was to be killed.

RatioEdit

  • Willful blindness is an active process of suppressing a suspicion.
  • Willful blindness substitutes for actual knowledge when knowledge is a required component of the mens rea of the offence.

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