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The Rules Governing the Insanity Defence in Order to Determine When a Person Should Not Be Criminally Liable - Essay Example

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Is insanity defense viable? Insanity defense can be dated back to the biblical times and can be attributed to have emerged from a myth that mentally ill individuals were not to be held responsible for act committed especially if the acts committed by a sane person would have been criminal. …
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The Rules Governing the Insanity Defence in Order to Determine When a Person Should Not Be Criminally Liable
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The court found him insane whom in an assassination attempt to Robert Peel the British Prime Minister, mistakenly killed his secretary. This led to the formation of strictures whereby it was avowed that a defendant was required to have a mental condition or illness and even retardation that was required to be severe to an extent that the defendant had no insight as to the quality and nature of the act committed without the knowledge that the act was wrong. English law has reviewed the concept of insanity defense and is an area rich in evidence especially with reference to decided cases evaluating this defense. In this regard, this paper will critically analyze the insanity defense according to English law. Changes that have been made to the insanity defense will also be delineated and the paper will conclude with an assertion if insanity defense still exists.
To begin with, the English law stipulates that prior to passing judgment on an individual; the court has the responsibility of fulfilling two major components. Firstly, the court needs to prove actus reus which delineates that the defendant engaged in the conduct that was illegal as it was against the requirements of the law. Secondly, the court needs to prove mens rea illustrating the criminal intent in the act committed by the defendant. This is diversified in different courts as pertains to sanctions imposed. This shows that will is inculcated in criminal law illustrating responsibility of the defendant for his own behavior. However, the insanity doctrine precludes individuals from being responsible of their acts if they suffer from a mental illness that greatly hampers their ability to make concrete decisions (cognitive ability) or capacity to control behavior (volitional abilities) to an extent that their will becomes compromised.2 Insanity in English law is viewed from three main aspects. The first aspect entails insanity prior to the trial where despite the offender being in custody, he is insane. The English law requires that the Home Secretary detains the insane defendant immediately and receives a confirmation of insanity from two psychiatric doctors as pertains to the mental status of the defendant. The second clause of insanity is inculcated in unfitness of the defendant to plead following the defendant presenting with any of the six considerations stipulated under3. One consideration is the inability of the defendant too understand the charges, also inability to plead guilty or not and inability to challenge jurors. Consequently, inability to instruct counsel and instruct solicitors is also considered. Moreover, the inability of the defendant to follow proceedings and to give evidence in his defense is also reviewed.4 See R v Pritchard5and M (John)6. Following an assertion that the defendant is unable to plead, a second jury is usually set up determining if the defendant is guilty of actus reus. However, if the jury is convinced that the defendant is not liable for actus reus the defendant is acquitted. This cannot therefore lead to criminal conviction and hence the defense illuminating diminished responsibility is not viable as was the ruling in the case of Pierre Harrison ANTOINE v The United Kingdom7. The third aspect that inculcates insanity is insanity as the time of the offense. The major case that is used in this third aspect is the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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