A university student in Canada 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 central Winnipeg.
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 heard.
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 onto his chest.
She agreed, but accidentally pushed the knife in 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 woman 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.
David Deutscher, a law professor at the University of Manitoba, said 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, writes Mike McIntyre in Winnipeg Free Press.
"It could be similar to a case of criminal negligence," he said. Deutscher said the issue likely will 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.
In 2001, a Winnipeg man was convicted of assault causing bodily harm, 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.