Canadian Criminal Law/Defences/Accident and Mistake

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Accident[edit]

An accident is a "mishap or untoward event not expected or designed", or "unforeseen contingency or occurence" [1] It's meaning varies depending on the type of charge. Where it is a specific intent offence, an accident relates to a denial of voluntariness of the act or denial of intention to cause the outcome. General intent offence claims the act was unexpected or chance that was not foreseeable. [2]

The effect in law is that the mens rea is not present. This is distinctive from mistake which occurs in “the realm of perception”.[3]

Once the accused establishes there is an "air of reality" to the defence, the crown must disprove the availability of the defence. [4]

  1. R v Whitehorne 2005 CanLII 34553 (NLPC)
    Hill v. R., 1973 CanLII 36, [1975] 2 SCR 402, (1974) 14 CCC (2d) 505 (SCC) at p. 510
  2. Criminal Pleading & Practice, Ewaschuck, (2nd Edition) at para. 21.0030
    R. v. Mathisen, 2008 ONCA 747 at 70
  3. R v Whitehorne
  4. R. v. Sutherland, 1993 CanLII 6614 (SK CA), (1994) 84 CCC (3d) 484 (Sask. C.A.) per Vanscise, J.A., at pp. 497-498

Reflex[edit]

It is permissible to argue that the action of accused was not voluntary as it was a reflexive act.[1]

  1. R. v. Pirozzi (1987), 34 C.C.C. (3d) 376 (Ont. C.A.)
    R. v. Mullin (1990), 56 C.C.C. (3d) 476 (P.E.I.C.A.)
    R. v. Wolfe, (1974) 20 CCC (2d) 382 (Ont. C.A.): accused hits victim on head with telephone by reflex