In 2013, the Supreme Court released its decision in R. v. Ryan. The Court overturned an acquittal that Ms. Ryan had secured at trial based on the defence of duress. She had been charged with counselling the commission of an offence, namely, attempting to hire someone to kill her ex-husband. At trial, her defence succeeded because the trial court — and later the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal — found that her husband had subjected her to a reign of terror during their relationship and she feared for her life, and her daughter’s. In this situation, the courts below held, the defence of duress was available. The Supreme Court’s decision provided much-needed clarity on the law of duress. In many respects, the decision was consistent with past jurisprudence and was logically coherent. However, it created a legal vacuum for future “Ms. Ryans”. Self-defence, as it the n was, was not applicable and duress was now out of reach. The Court, this paper argues, took too restrictive of an approach with respect to interpreting the law of duress, and failed to take account of both the realities of domestic violence and prevailing Charter values. However, as the paper the n explores, the resulting vacuum may have been remedied by Parliament in the proclamation of the new self-defence provisions. Ryan, in what it did not do for the plight of the accused, offers guidance and provides direction to ensure that the new self-defence provisions are interpreted through the lens of Charter values and with a contextualized understanding of the realities of male violence against intimate partners.
"R. v. Ryan and the Principle of Moral Involuntariness."
The Supreme Court Law Review: Osgoode’s Annual Constitutional Cases Conference
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