Her Majesty the Queen v. Paul Francis Tatton

(Ontario) (Criminal) (As of Right)




Case summaries are prepared by the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada (Law Branch). Please note that summaries are not provided to the Judges of the Court. They are placed on the Court file and website for information purposes only.

Criminal law - Arson - Defences - Whether arson is an offence of general or specific intent - Whether an accused person’s self-induced drunkenness, short of extreme intoxication akin to automatism, is a defence to arson.

The respondent was acquitted of arson. While intoxicated at his ex-girlfriend’s house, he put oil in a frying pan, turned the element on high, and then left the house to go to Tim Horton’s. When he returned fifteen to twenty minutes later, the house was on fire. The home was completely destroyed. At trial, the respondent raised the defence of accident and tendered evidence of his intoxication at the time he caused the fire. The trial judge considered the evidence of intoxication, finding that, in the circumstances of this case, arson was a specific intent offence. Ultimately, the trial judge was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the respondent left the stove on high either intentionally or recklessly. The Crown appealed, arguing that the trial judge should not have considered the evidence of the respondent’s intoxication because arson is an offence of general intent, and evidence of self-induced intoxication is inadmissible for the purpose of determining whether an accused has the requisite intent to commit that offence. A majority of the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. Goudge J.A., dissenting, would have allowed the appeal, set aside the acquittal and ordered a new trial. In his view, the offence of arson at s. 434 of the Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, is a general intent offence which meant that the trial judge could not consider the respondent’s self-induced intoxication as a defence.

Lower Court Rulings

July 29, 2013
Ontario Superior Court of Justice

Respondent acquitted of arson
April 8, 2014
Court of Appeal for Ontario

2014 ONCA 273, C57550
Appeal dismissed