Crime CXXXXVI– Insanity III

At the start of the trial, when the defendant is charged, he is charged on the presumption that he is sane and it up to the defense to rebut the presumption of sanity i.e. to prove that the defendant is not sane.

In M’Naghten (1843) the defendant attempted to kill the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, and instead shot and killed his secretary Edward Drummond. At the time of the killing the defendant was suffering from insane delusions i.e. a false conception of reality.

It was held that in all instances that the jury is to be told that the defendant is presumed to be sane at the time of the crime and this presumption is valid until the defense can prove otherwise and in order for the defense of insanity to be successful it must be clearly proved by way of evidence that the defendant was laboring under such defect of reason due to a disease of the mind that he or she was unable to know the nature and quality of the act.

In 1883 the Trial of Lunatics Act was passed and as per s2(1) of the act: –

“Where in any indictment or information any act or omission is charged against any person as an offence, and it is given in evidence on the trial of such person for that offence that he was insane, so as not to be responsible, according to law, for his actions at the time when the act was done or omission made, then, if it appears to the jury before whom such person is tried that he did the act or made the omission charged, but was insane as aforesaid at the time when he did or made the same, the jury shall return (a special verdict that the accused is not guilty by reason of insanity.)”

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Crime CXXXXV– Insanity II

In R v Pritchard (1836) the defendant was deaf and mute, and it was decided that before the court or a jury can reach a verdict three factors had to be taken into account: –

  1. Whether the defendant is mute of malice
  2. Whether the defendant can plead
  3. Whether the defendant understands or comprehends the charges against him or her – Alderson B.

If the jury find that they could not communicate with the defendant or the defendant could not understand the charges against him or her than the jury should find the defendant unfit to plead.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Crime CXXXXIV– Insanity I

The defense of insanity is a defense that is available to all crimes. When the judge or the jury finds that the defendant falls under the scope of the defense, the verdict that is to be returned is the verdict of not guilty by virtue of insanity.

Insanity differs from diminished responsibility (which is also a defense on a charge of murder or intending to cause GBH (grievous bodily harm)) in that insanity is caused by inherent factors and diminished responsibility is cause by external, often extenuating circumstances,  for example repeated abuse or aggravating someone who is intolerant of the victim’s actions.

The latter is more in line with the defense of automatism though automatism is usually the result of the excessive consumption of alcohol or the excessive taking of drugs, or a failure to do something, that the defendant who is under medication should do, for example taking insulin without eating any food and thus going into hypoglycemia.

All three defenses, while they deal with the inability of the mind to control the impulses, apply to different sets of circumstances. A lot depends on the facts.

In 1831 (York assizes) a lady who was deaf was charged with the killing of her illegitimate child. She was unable to speak and despite trying to use various signs she still wasn’t able to understand the charges against her. She was found mute by “visitation of god” and the jury were required to return a verdict of insane.

It is therefore possible to surmise that in instances and situations where the defendant is unable to understand or comprehend the charges that are directed at him or her, the judge or the jury should return the verdict of not guilty by virtue of insanity.

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Crime CXXXXIII– Intoxication XIV

Intoxication need not be raised if the defendant is suffering from a mental impairment that falls under S. 2 of the Homicide Act 1957. The fact that the defendant is suffering from a recognized mental ailment is sufficient to reduce a charge of murder to that of manslaughter

S. 2 of the Homicide Act 1957 reads as follows: –

Persons suffering from diminished responsibility.

 (1) A person (“D”) who kills or is a party to the killing of another is not to be convicted of murder if D was suffering from an abnormality of mental functioning which—

(a) arose from a recognized medical condition,

(b) substantially impaired D’s ability to do one or more of the things mentioned in subsection (1A), and

(c) provides an explanation for D’s acts and omissions in doing or being a party to the killing.

In R v Hendy (2006) the accused a 16-year-old was suffering from some sort of mental impairment as a result of a head injury that he sustained as a child. He was callous and reckless and gave little thought to his own safety and at times had endangered his own life. On the night of the incident the accused had been drinking heavily and had attempted to take his own life, but he was stopped by friends. That night once he’d returned home, still drunk, he walked out into an alley with a knife and stabbed a man to death. The accused was arrested.

At the trial it was held that the accused did not have to show that the mental impairment would have caused him to kill. If the accused satisfies the conditions of S. 2 of the Homicide Act 1957 the verdict that would be returned would be that of manslaughter.

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Crime CXXXXII– Intoxication XIII

The rule in R v O’Grady (1987) with regards to a mistake of facts induced by self-intoxication was reaffirmed in the 2005 case of R v Hatton, in that, a defendant cannot validly raise the defense of self-defense when he caused the death of another under a mistaken belief that was precipitated by the excessive consumption of alcohol or the taking of drugs.

In R v Hatton (2005) the defendant and the victim met at a pub. The victim was a manic depressive and was prescribed lithium to keep his illness under control. On the day in question the defendant had not taken his lithium and the alcohol in is blood was above twice the legal limit.

The defendant and the victim met in a pub. They did not know each other prior to that and on the day, the victim was acting strangely and passed himself off as a former member of the SAS and was exhibiting his martial arts skills. Both men had been drinking heavily and left together in the defendant’s car. The defendant drove the victim to his home and he could not remember what happened next.

The following morning the defendant called the police informing them that there was a dead man in his house. The victim had been battered to death by a sledgehammer and there was a long stick close to his body. The defendant was charged and the trial judge directed the jury along the lines of R v O’Grady (1987) and the fact that the defendant labored under a mistake of facts induced by his drunkenness was not a defense and the jury convicted for murder. The defendant appealed on the grounds that the jury should look at the facts as it appeared to the defendant or as he believed them to be (subjective).

The appeal was dismissed, and the conviction was upheld. The defendant’s drunken mistake cannot give rise to the defense of self-defense.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Crime CXXXXI– Intoxication XII

In instances of horseplay, the test that is to be applied, in order to decide if the defendant is guilty or otherwise, is the subjective test i.e. the question that is to be asked is whether the defendant had intended to cause the victim the harm that had resulted and not if a reasonable man can foresee that some harm would result from the defendant’s actions. In most instances in order to obtain a conviction the prosecution must establish that the defendant’s actions were beyond what could be construed as mere horseplay.

In Richardson and Irwin (1999) two students lifted another over a balcony, after a bout of evening drinking and dropped him some twelve feet causing him serious injuries.

The court decided that the defendants were not guilty. Clearly the boys were fooling around, and they had no intention of causing any form or type of injury to their friend. In such instances the question that is to be asked is whether the boys intended to cause the defendant the harm that resulted (subjective test) and not if a reasonable man could foresee that some type of harm may result from the defendants actions (objective test) see also R v Lamb (1967).

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Crime CXXXX– Intoxication XI

As far as intent in criminal law is concerned, it does not matter if the defendant committed the act when he was drunk and as long as the prosecution can prove that the intent was always there, the defendant can be found guilty.

Intent remains intent and if the prosecution can establish that the intention was there when the defendant was sober than the jury can convict. The fact that drugs or alcohol take away the defendant’s inhibitions does not negate or diminish intent and in some instances it does not even mitigate the crime or the offence for the reason that the intent was always there and the excessive drinking or the drugs merely made it easier for the defendant to carry out his or her intentions.

In R v Kingston (1995), the defendant was a homosexual with pedophiliac predilections and was drugged by a friend, who was employed by another party to gain some leverage that they could use to settle a business dispute with the defendant. While he was intoxicated he was encouraged to perform sexual acts with a 15 year old boy who was drugged by a soporific drink. The boy remembered nothing but the friend had photographed everything that had transpired.

The defendant was charged and a jury convicted the defendant. The defendant appealed on the grounds that he was drugged and therefore he could not form the intention to commit the offence and the Court of Appeal quashed the conviction.

The prosecution appealed and the House of Lords upheld the conviction on the basis that despite the fact that the defendant was drugged, the intention to commit the offence was always there and the trial judge’s direction to the jury had been correct in that, if the jury find that the intention was always there, then regardless of the fact that the defendant was drugged or intoxicated, the jury must convict.

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Crime CXXXVIX– Intoxication X

With regards to specific intent crimes, a charge of murder may be reduced to a charge of manslaughter, in instances of self induced intoxication because the defendant lacked the mens rea for a conviction of murder i.e. intention to cause death or grievous bodily harm and may have made a mistake as to the amount of force that was exerted.

In R v O’Connor (1991) the defendant who was drunk at the time killed a man in a fight in a pub and according to the defendant he was acting in self-defense. He was convicted of murder and he appealed his conviction.

On appeal the appellant’s conviction of murder was reduced to that of manslaughter because the appellant did not have the mens rea required for murder see also R v O’Grady (1987).

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Crime CXXXVIII– Intoxication IX

With regards to spiking or lacing another person’s drink, in order to secure a conviction, the prosecution will need to establish intention (mens rea) and nothing less will suffice i.e. it is a specific intent crime (strict liability offence) as opposed to a basic intent crime where the mens rea required to secure a conviction is either negligence or recklessness.

In Blakely and Sutton v DPP (1991) the victim was having an affair with the principle defendant and after having a couple of drinks with her he decided to go home to his wife. In order to stop the defendant from going home, the principle defendant and her friend, spiked the victim’s drink (tonic water) with alcohol but before either of them could stop him, the victim got into his car and drove off. He was subsequently stopped by the police and failed a breathalyzer test. However, he was absolved of all charges when it was discovered that his drink was spiked, and the defendants were charged instead and were convicted by a magistrate for procuring the offence on the basis that they were reckless (Caldwell recklessness) in their actions. The defendants appealed.

The conviction was quashed, and it was decided that spiking someone’s drink is a specific intent crime and the prosecution must prove intention, and recklessness (Caldwell recklessness) would not suffice.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Crime CXXXVII– Intoxication XIII

With regards to alcoholism, in order for it to be defense or to be considered or regarded as a defense, the disease must rob the victim of the ability to resist. If the defendant still retains the ability to resist than the taking of the intoxicant would be deemed voluntary and the rules with regards to self-intoxication would apply.

The impairment caused by repeated drinking must be so substantive that it has robbed the defendant of the ability to reason and has caused “gross impairment to her judgement and emotion responses” – Watkins LJ.

Whether the alcoholism has deprived the defendant of the ability to reason or has caused gross impairment to her judgement and emotion responses, will depend on the medical evidence that is produced during the trial.

In R v Tandy (1989) the accused strangled her 11-year-old daughter to death after she complained to the accused that she had been sexually abused by her stepfather. The accused had been drinking heavily just prior to the incident and at the time of the incident she was very drunk. The accused was tried and convicted for murder. The accused appealed but the appeal was dismissed.

In assessing whether the defense of diminished responsibility can be successfully raised there are two principles to be considered. Firstly, if there are no other factors to be considered, unequivocal and un-contradictory medical evidence favorable to the accused should be accepted and the direction to the jury should be as such and secondly when there are other factors to be considered the medical evidence though unequivocal and un-contradictory should be considered in light of those factors or those circumstances.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward