Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Woman admits 'rough sex' stabbing

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A Winnipeg university student who nearly stabbed her boyfriend to death during a bizarre act of consensual “knife play” has been spared a jail sentence.

Catherine McCoubrey, 25, was given three years of probation after pleading guilty to assault for the February 2007 incident in Osborne Village.

The 24-year-old victim received a puncture wound to his heart and was given little chance of survival when he was rushed to hospital. He has since made a full recovery and is fully supporting McCoubrey, court was told.

As the Free Press first reported last year, the couple had been drinking alcohol and were engaged in so-called “rough sex” when the boyfriend asked McCoubrey to carve a heart-shaped symbol on to his chest.

She agreed, but accidentally pushed the knife too deep.

Defence lawyer John McAmmond said Tuesday the victim introduced his client to “body modification” and they had previously engaged in knife carving.

McCoubrey, a University of Winnipeg student, had known the man for years but only started dating him weeks earlier. She has no prior criminal record.

The slight, blond woman appeared distraught during her initial court appearance, prompting the judge to ask Remand Centre officials to check on her well-being and ensure she was OK.

She was released on bail, with conditions to have no contact with her boyfriend. McCoubrey admitted Tuesday to breaching on one occasion by having contact with the man. Her guilty plea means they can legally resume their relationship without fear of arrest.

Although a person can consent to some degree of physical abuse, such as with piercing and tattooing, there is no allowance in law for agreeing to have bodily harm done to yourself. That is based on a 1991 Supreme Court of Canada ruling.

David Deutscher, a law professor at the University of Manitoba, told the Free Press a person doesn’t have to intend to cause harm in order to commit a crime, and even so-called “accidents” could result in charges.

“It could be similar to a case of criminal negligence,” he said. Deutscher said the issue will likely boil down to actions leading up to the harm and whether those actions are acceptable in law.

“The question of criminal culpability is coloured by the nature of the original act. You could have a case where a person gives actual consent to something, but that is still not consent in law,” he said.

An extreme example would be a case in Germany two years ago in which a man was sentenced to life in prison for killing and eating an apparently willing victim that he met in a computer chat room.

The judge in that case ruled the accused hadn’t committed a murder in the traditional legal sense, but was guilty of “behaviour which is condemned in our society -- namely, the killing and butchering of a human being.”

Closer to home, a Winnipeg man was convicted of assault causing bodily harm in 2001 despite the fact his longtime lover agreed to be hit on the buttocks with a wooden chair leg and spanked with a leather belt during a sexual encounter.

The woman’s injuries required treatment in hospital and were reported to police despite her protests. The case made national headlines.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 14, 2008 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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