The Defence of Belief in Consent: Guidelines and Jury Instructions for Application of Criminal Code Section 265(4)

Criminal Law Quarterly 50 (4):441-452 (2005)
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The availability of the defence of belief in consent under section 265(4) is a question of law, subject to review on appeal. The statutory provision is based on the common law rule that applies to all defences. Consideration of the defence when it is unavailable in law and failure to consider it when it is available are both incorrect. A judge is most likely to avoid error when ruling on availability of the defence if the ruling: (1) is grounded on sound analysis of the substantive basis for the defence and its relationship to the principles of criminal responsibility; and (2) uses precise legal criteria to govern practical application of section 265(4) to the evidence in specific cases. The guidelines proposed in Part I are based on analyses of the substantive defence and culpable awareness and were developed to ensure that appropriate criteria are properly used when section 265(4) is applied. When a trial judge rules that the defence is available in law, the trier of fact must determine whether the defence is available on the facts as found, based on the evidence in the case. The model jury instructions proposed in Part II are designed to ensure that deliberations by the trier of fact are also guided and shaped by appropriate legal criteria. At both stages, the objective is to ground the deliberation process on fact, not fiction, and to regulate the exculpatory effect of the defence by using legal norms to exclude excuses based on extra-legal considerations such as sexual/racial fantasy, stereotype and myth, or community attitudes and custom.
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