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Canadian judge, experts claim partiers could face manslaughter charges if partygoers die from COVID

Proving the charges in court would be "difficult," one concedes.

Updated: April 30, 2021 - 4:40pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Some legal experts in Canada are echoing a judge's recent remark that hosting a party at which someone is infected by, and later dies from, COVID-19 could lead to a manslaughter charge. 

Provincial Justice Ellen Gordon made the controversial claim earlier this week when sentencing a man who had reportedly hosted a party for dozens of people in a penthouse. 

“If someone who had been at your party was infected and died, as far as I’m concerned, you’re guilty of manslaughter,” Gordon said during the sentencing. “If someone who had been at your party was infected and passed it on to grandma, as far as I’m concerned, you’re guilty of manslaughter.”

Several legal experts, meanwhile, told the Canadian Press that such a charge is possible under Canadian law. 

York University law Prof. Lisa Dufraimont told the paper that if a party "does cause someone’s death, as the judge said, then that could amount to manslaughter."

“When you do a dangerous act that’s also a lead offence under the legislation, and if that were to lead to someone’s death, that could be manslaughter,” she added.

University of British Columbia law Prof. Isabel Grant also agreed that it was "technically possible that the Crown could substantiate a manslaughter charge," though she called that outcome "highly unlikely."

"[S]howing beyond a reasonable doubt that that person got COVID [at a party] is going to be very challenging for the Crown," she added, noting that Canada has "things that could be utilized before we go to thinking about putting people in jail for the transmission of an illness."

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