Defences: Insanity

Fact, cases and comments on Insanity

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  • Created by: Emily
  • Created on: 04-06-14 13:47
Definition of Insanity
The defendant must be "labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong."
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Insanity: Availability and Limitations
Available for all offences where mens rea is required therefore not available for strict liability offences as there is no mental element required.
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The M'Naughten Rules (1843)
The main rule is that "in all cases every man is presumed to be sane and to possess a sufficient degree of reason to be responsible for his crimes."
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The 3 elements that need to be proved.
1. A defect of reason. 2. Which must be the result of a disease of the mind. 3. Causing the defendant not to know the nature and quality of his act or not to know he was doing wrong.
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Burden of Proof
The burden of proof is on the defence who must prove it on the balance of probabilities.
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Verdict
Where a defendant is found to be insane, the verdict is "not guilty by reason of insanity".
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Defect of Reason Meaning
This means that the defendant's power of reasoning must be impaired.
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Clarke (1972)
Held that the defect of reasoning must be more than absent-mindedness or confusion.
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Disease of the Mind
This is a legal term, not a medical one. The disease can be a mental or physical disease which affects the mind.
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Kemp (1956)
Defendant suffered from hardening of the arteries which caused blackouts. He killed his wife during a blackout and it was held that he could rely on the defence of insanity as his condition affected his reason, memory and understanding.
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Sullivan (1984)
Defendant suffered from epilepsy and during a fit injured an old man. It was held that insanity included any organic or functional disease. It also applied even where it was temporary.
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Hennessy (1989)
Defendant stole a car (but had no recollection of doing so) after not taking his insulin for three days. It was held that if the disease affects the mind then it is within the definition of insanity.
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Burgess (1991)
It was decided that, in some instances, sleep-walking came within the legal definition of insanity, after defendant had attacked his girlfriend in his sleep. However, if the sleep-walking is due to an external cause then it is not insanity.
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External Factors
Where the cause of the defendant being in state where he does not know what he is doing is not a disease of the mind but an external cause, then it is not insanity.
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Quick (1973)
Defendant was a diabetic who failed to eat after taking his insulin and then assault someone. It was held that this was an external cause (the effect of the drug) and therefore is not within the definition of insanity.
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Comments on Hennessy (1989) vs. Quick (1973)
The automatic state can either be due to hyperglycaemia (caused by disease = internal factor = insanity) or hypoglycaemia (caused by drug = external factor = automatism). Its absurd that they have to rely on different defences depending on cause.
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Not knowing the nature or quality of the act refers to...
the physical character of the act.
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The 2 ways in which a defendant may not know the nature and quality of the act
1. Because he is in a state of unconsciousness or impaired consciousness, or 2. when he is conscious but due to his mental condition he does not know or understand what he is doing.
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Windle (1952)
If the defendant knows the nature and quality of act is legally wrong then he cannot use the defence of insanity as shown in this case as the defendant, who had a mental disorder, said "I suppose they will hang me for this" after killing his wife.
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Johnson (2007)
Defendant had schizophrenia and stabbed neighbour. It was argued that the defendant did no know what he was doing was morally wrong but the court followed the rule set out in Windle (1952) which held that "wrong" meant legally wrong.
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The Special Verdict: Prior to 1991
The judge had to send the defendant to a mental hospital regardless of the cause of insanity or offence committed.
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The Special Verdict: After the Criminal Procedure (Insanity and Unfitness to Please) Act 1991
Previous sentencing was clearly not suitable for, for example, those who have diabetes. Now the judge can impose: 1. a hospital order (with or without restrictions to release date), 2. a supervision order, 3. an absolute discharge
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Sentencing for murder charges
If the defendant is charged with murder then the judge must impose an indefinite hospital order. This means that the hospital can only release the defendant if the Home Secretary gives consent.
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Problems of the law on insanity: The M'Naughten Rules (1843)
The definition is set out in the M'Naughten Rules and at that time medical knowledge of mental disorders was very limited. Much more is known today so there should be a more modern definition.
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Problems of the law on insanity: Legal Definition (Part 1)
People suffering from certain mental disorders don't come within the definition for example psychopaths, e.g. Byrne (1960), because they know what they are doing & that it is wrong. But they can't stop themselves doing it & have a mental disorder.
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Problems of the law on insanity: Legal Definition (Part 2)
Those suffering from physical illnesses, e.g diabetes (Hennessy (1989)), are considered to be legally insane. The justification is that there is an internal cause so the behaviour may recur and it may be possible to treat it.
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Problems of the law on insanity: The Overlap with Automatism (Part 1)
Ds suffering from any illness which affects their mind/puts them in an automatic state = insanity. This has consequences as Ds who successfully use automatism are acquitted but Ds who are found NG by reason of insanity have an order imposed on them.
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Problems of the law on insanity: The Overlap with Automatism (Part 2)
It may be argued that the reason courts are reluctant to allow Ds to use automatism is because it will lead to an acquittal. There is the argument that, although the cause of act is a physical illness, D might commit further offences.
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Problems of the law on insanity: Verdict
The meaning of the verdict makes insanity a less favoured defence and often leads to defendants preferring the please guilty, rather than be labelled "insane".
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Problems of the law on insanity: Burden of Proof
The shifting BoP depending on whether the prosecution or defence is arguing is confusing and inconsistent and provides an added complication for the jury. It is a possible breach of Art. 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
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Problems of the law on insanity: Stigma (Part 1)
Social stigma surrounds the term insanity. Some argue it is an outdated term and should not be used for those suffering from mental illness, and especially not for those who suffer from physical illnesses such as epilepsy.
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Problems of the law on insanity: Stigma (Part 2)
The relevant issue is whether the accused to take medication through some isolated lapse or through unwillingness or inability to accept the need for medication, in which case help may be needed.
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Problems of the law on insanity: Scope (Part 1)
It has been recommended that proof of a severe mental disorder should be enough to negate responsibility. However, this would allow crim. responsibility to be determined by a mental problem rather than establishing a standard of crim. responsibility.
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Problems of the law on insanity: Scope (Part 2)
This would raise the question as to whether this defence should be available for all crimes, even those not requiring mens rea.
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Problems of the law on insanity: Legally Wrong
It could be argued that the question of whether the defendant knew what they were doing, and knew that it was wrong, is part of mens rea and should therefore be for the prosecution to prove.
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Problems of the law on insanity: The Internal/External Factor Test (Part 1)
Judge Toohey in Falconer (1990) described the internal/external theory as "artifical" and said that it failed to take into account the "subtleties surrounding the notion of mental disease".
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Problems of the law on insanity: The Internal/External Factor Test (Part 2)
The distinction makes illogical, hair-splitting distinctions inevitable, allowing some an outright acquittal while condemning others to plead guilty or take the risk of special verdict.
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Problems of the law on insanity: The Internal/External Factor Test (Part 3)
As Wilson, Ebrahim, Fenwick and Marks (1990) point out, diabetics may suffer from hypoglycaemia or hyperglycaemia caused by either factor so the distinction of "internal" and "external factors" makes no sense.
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Problems of the law on insanity: The Role of the Jury (Part 1)
It is inappropriate for the jury to decide insanity; medical experts should decide if D is criminally insane - jurors struggle with the psychiatric terminology.
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Problems of the law on insanity: The Role of the Jury (Part 2)
There is a potential for jury confusion and misapplication owing to emotional considerations, sympathy or gut reactions, e.g. Peter Sutcliffe - the Yorkshire Ripper - who was convicted of murder even though he was a paranoid schizophrenic.
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Problems of the law on insanity: Overlap with Diminished Responsibility
Since 1957, for defendants with mental illness charged with murder, there has been an alternative defence of diminished responsibility. If successful in this defence the charge of murder is reduced to manslaughter.
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Proposals for Reform
The general thrust of proposals have been towards modernising the language of the defence in order to align it more closely with the current medical understanding of mental disorder. Insanity is currently being looked at by the Law Commission.
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Proposals for Reform: Royal Commission on Capital Punishment 1953 (Part 1)
Proposed that the rules should be extended so D would be considered insane if he was "incapable of preventing himself" from committing the offence. If this happened, then those suffering from "irresistible impulses" would be under defn. of insanity.
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Proposals for Reform: Royal Commission on Capital Punishment 1953 (Part 2)
However, instead of making this reform they introduced the defence of diminished responsibility. This gives a special defence to those charged with murder, but no other offences.
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Proposals for Reform: Butler Committee 1975 (Part 1)
The main recommendation was the introduction of a new verdict of "not guilty by reason of mental disorder". This could be applied where D was unable to form MR due to mental disorder/was aware of his actions but was suffering from mental illness.
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Proposals for Reform: Butler Committee 1975 (Part 2)
The Law Commission's Draft Criminal Code (1989) adopted the recommendations with some modifications. It was suggested it may help alleviate the stigma of insanity.
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Proposals for Reform: Butler Committee 1975 (Part 3)
It was also recommended that the burden of proof should be on the prosecution. US law requires "clear and convincing evidence" of insanity for the defence, a higher standard than the balance of probabilities but less than beyond reasonable doubt.
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Proposals for Reform: Law Commission
Under the LC's Tenth Programme of Reform, which commenced at the beginning of 2011, one area under consideration was the Unfitness to Plead and Insanity defence.
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The Scoping Paper 2012 states that there are 3 significant defects in the current law, firstly...
On one interpretation the defence is not available for strict liability cases or where the offence is one of negligence.
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The Scoping Paper 2012 states that there are 3 significant defects in the current law, secondly...
The dependence on the distinction between internal and external causes is not viable.
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The Scoping Paper 2012 states that there are 3 significant defects in the current law, and thirdly...
The distinction between mens rea and actus reus is not sustainable.
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Proposals for Reform: Law Commission
The consultation process it currently underway and recommendations from the LC will provide suggestions for future reform.
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Current Position of the Defence of Insanity
None of these proposals have been made law. However, changes to the ways in which judges can deal with D after they have been found "not guilty by reason of insanity" has improved matters.
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Other cards in this set

Card 2

Front

Available for all offences where mens rea is required therefore not available for strict liability offences as there is no mental element required.

Back

Insanity: Availability and Limitations

Card 3

Front

The main rule is that "in all cases every man is presumed to be sane and to possess a sufficient degree of reason to be responsible for his crimes."

Back

Preview of the back of card 3

Card 4

Front

1. A defect of reason. 2. Which must be the result of a disease of the mind. 3. Causing the defendant not to know the nature and quality of his act or not to know he was doing wrong.

Back

Preview of the back of card 4

Card 5

Front

The burden of proof is on the defence who must prove it on the balance of probabilities.

Back

Preview of the back of card 5
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