Bestiality Defined by the Supreme Court of Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the acquittal of a British Columbia man in a decision that defines the crime of bestiality as penetration involving a person and animal.

The defendant  was found guilty three years ago of 13 counts arising from years of sexual molestation of his two step-daughters.One of those counts alleged bestiality under the Criminal Code, stemming from sexual activity  the family dog. The man successfully challenged the bestiality conviction in the B.C. Court of Appeal based on the fact the activity did not involve penetration.

In a 6-1 decision the Supreme Court of Canada  affirmed the B.C. Court of Appeal  ruling, rejecting the notion bestiality is an offence encompassing sexual activity of any kind between a person and an animal. The issue for both appellate courts was whether updates to the Canadian  Criminal Code in 1955 and 1988 altered the meaning of the crime of bestiality.

Justice Thomas Cromwell, writing for the majority, reviewed  the history of the bestiality  law — and its evolution from Church of England prohibitions in the 16th century to early laws enacted in colonial Canada — and ruled that lawmakers have always intended to single out only a certain subset of animal abusers.”Penetration has always been understood to be an essential element of bestiality,” Cromwell wrote. “Parliament may wish to consider whether the present provisions adequately protect children and animals. But it is for Parliament, not the courts, to expand the scope of criminal liability for this ancient offence.”

In her understated  dissenting opinion, Justice Rosalie Abella said she had a great deal of difficulty accepting that in modernizing amendments to the Criminal Code, “Parliament forgot to bring the offence out of the Middle Ages.”

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