Molly Mole Criminologist – Omission and Commission

Almost a week had gone by and in that time Molly had managed to ease into her new role relatively well. She’d managed to make the transition from student to teacher comfortably enough and she was determined to help see her students through. Her third class still revolved around the physical elements in a crime.

She began her class in the customary manner by asking a few questions. “Can anyone tell me what are the two ingredients or components to a crime?” she asked. Otto was the first to put up his hand and Molly pointed to him. “The mental and physical element” he replied.

Molly nodded her head and pointed to Olly, “Can you please elaborate on that Olly?” she asked and the owl promptly replied “yes, thought and action, the thought of committing the crime, which is not necessarily in itself an offence and the act of committing it” he said and Molly nodded her head.

“Now, can anyone tell me if it is possible to commit a crime without an act or without any action or by refraining from acting?” she asked and the class remained silent. Molly smiled; they were all astute enough to guess that it was a trick question. “Well” she said after taking a quick glance around the room, looking at the blank faces that prevailed, “the answer in short, is yes”.

“It happens when there is a duty to care for someone”. “The most common duty of care is the parent-child relationship”. “Parents by virtue of having a child or children are compelled by law to care for their child or children and therefore can be found guilty when that duty of care is not met and some harm befalls the child as a result of the breach of duty of care or the duty to care for the child”.

“It is simply the breach of a duty imposed by law and the defendant is guilty if the breach causes some damage to the child or results in a fatality”.

“In most counties the failure to care for a child can be interpreted as child abuse especially where there is an imminent risk to the child’s health and welfare and it is typically associated to children under the age of 18”.

“The harm that results from the breach of the duty of care must be inflicted by non accidental means including carelessness for example leaving a child home alone or other negligent acts”.

As soon as she’d finished, Wally raised his hand and Molly pointed to him. “Does that mean that the police are under a duty to protect me if I’m in danger?” he asked with a smile and Sally who was a member of Hicksville Metropolitan’s finest couldn’t help but glare at him.

Molly replied with a shake of the head. “The police do not have a duty to protect you”. “Even if you had called them and said to them that there is a stalker prowling around in your backyard and it later turned out that there was indeed a stalker who later attacked you and made away with your valuables, and the 911 conversation was recorded, the police are still not under an obligation to protect you” she said.

“Duty of care can alternatively equate to a reasonable standard that one has to observe while carrying out certain duties and it is more evident when there is a close proximity between the offender and the victim than otherwise” she added.

“I’ll revert once again to the parent-child relationship where a duty is imposed because of familial bonds. We are safe in saying that parents have to take reasonable steps to care for their children and a failure to care for their children is sometimes also known as a crime of omission or a failure to act when there is a duty imposed either by common law or statute to act”.

“There are obviously other extensions to the Duty of Care for example the Duty to Rescue whereby citizens are under a moral obligation to try and help their fellow citizens but a failure to do so will not attract any liability”.

“In a nutshell the physical element in a crime may not only be satisfied by carrying out certain actions but it can also be satisfied by failing to act in a specific manner” she concluded.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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Molly Mole Criminologist – The Mental Element

Molly Mole couldn’t believe her luck. She had just graduated as a criminologist after three long years of diligent studies and within a couple of months after the completion of her degree she’d managed to land herself a job at Hicksville Community College as a part-time lecturer. Peter Badger, the principle, had promised her a full time position in the Sociology Department if she could put the college on equal footing with the rest of the colleges in the county.

Thus far despite having been in operation for almost a hundred years Hicksville Community College had not produced a criminologist of any note. Molly however was ready to change all of that and hoped to push the college up the ranking. It was currently sitting at the bottom of the ladder and Molly had made up her mind to push it up at least a notch or two. She felt that it was the only way she could thank Principle Badger for his faith in her.

Today was her first class and she got on her bicycle, just before 8 in the morning, to make her way to college. She was in no hurry because she’d managed to get an early start. As she pedaled her way through the barrage of bicycles that were in front of her, at a leisurely pace, she began to mentally run through her first lesson. She decided she would start by helping her students dissect a crime.

There are two elements to any crime, thought and action i.e. the mental element and the physical element. She decided to start with the mental element.

There are two tests to establish the mental element the subjective test, which is more often than not used to establish criminal liability and the objective test which is more often than not used to establish civil liability. Molly however had to admit that the lines between the subjective test and the objective test have become blurred in recent times.

The subjective test takes into account the peculiarities of the accused and looks into his or her frame of mind while the objective test takes into account the view of the general public. These tests however are only a guide and there is no hard or fast rule as to establishing criminal or civil liability and each and every case has to be decided on its facts.

The severity that is attached to a crime may differ from county to county and therefore a snatch thief or a burglar may get away with slap on the wrist in fox county where the overall crime rate is extremely high while the same snatch thief or burglar may be imposed with a harsher sentence, probably a jail term in rabbit county, where the crime rate is almost nonexistent. It is safe to somewhat say that the objective test is at times subject to prevailing social and economic factors.

“That ought to explain things” she said to herself and she decided that she’d elaborate more on the mental element when she was dealing with proper criminal cases.

There was a possibility however that she might have a particularly astute student in her class who might decide to throw her a curve ball. What if one of her students decides to bring the rational choice theory into play? The rational choice theory is an economic principle that states that individuals always make prudent and rational decisions i.e. the decisions that give them the greatest benefit or satisfaction. Is the rational choice theory a subjective or an objective test?

The rational choice theory per se is a subjective test because it looks into the level of benefit or satisfaction that is derived from the act and that level of benefit or satisfaction differs from individual to individual. It addition to that it also implies a choice i.e. in any given situation an individual has a choice as to whether to commit an act or otherwise. Likewise there is no law that compels a person to commit a crime. He or she can walk away from it at anytime and in most cases people are forgiving.

There may be other mitigation factors that compels a person to commit a crime for example duress, diminished responsibly, impulse control disorders or cases where the offender is not able to appreciate the nature or the result of his or her actions. These factors normally come into play during sentencing.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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Molly Mole Criminologist – The Mental Element

Molly Mole couldn’t believe her luck. She had just graduated as a criminologist after three long years of diligent studies and within a couple of months after the completion of her degree she’d managed to land herself a job at Hicksville Community College as a part-time lecturer. Peter Badger, the principle, had promised her a full time position in the Sociology Department if she could put the college on equal footing with the rest of the colleges in the county.

Thus far despite having been in operation for almost a hundred years Hicksville Community College had not produced a criminologist of any note. Molly however was ready to change all of that and hoped to push the college up the ranking. It was currently sitting at the bottom of the ladder and Molly had made up her mind to push it up at least a notch or two. She felt that it was the only way she could thank Principle Badger for his faith in her.

Today was her first class and she got on her bicycle, just before 8 in the morning, to make her way to college. She was in no hurry because she’d managed to get an early start. As she pedaled her way through the barrage of bicycles that were in front of her, at a leisurely pace, she began to mentally run through her first lesson. She decided she would start by helping her students dissect a crime.

There are two elements to any crime, thought and action i.e. the mental element and the physical element. She decided to start with the mental element.

There are two tests to establish the mental element the subjective test, which is more often than not used to establish criminal liability and the objective test which is more often than not used to establish civil liability. Molly however had to admit that the lines between the subjective test and the objective test have become blurred in recent times.

The subjective test takes into account the peculiarities of the accused and looks into his or her frame of mind while the objective test takes into account the view of the general public. These tests however are only a guide and there is no hard or fast rule as to establishing criminal or civil liability and each and every case has to be decided on its facts.

The severity that is attached to a crime may differ from county to county and therefore a snatch thief or a burglar may get away with slap on the wrist in fox county where the overall crime rate is extremely high while the same snatch thief or burglar may be imposed with a harsher sentence, probably a jail term in rabbit county, where the crime rate is almost nonexistent. It is safe to somewhat say that the objective test is at times subject to prevailing social and economic factors.

“That ought to explain things” she said to herself and she decided that she’d elaborate more on the mental element when she was dealing with proper criminal cases.

There was a possibility however that she might have a particularly astute student in her class who might decide to throw her a curve ball. What if one of her students decides to bring the rational choice theory into play? The rational choice theory is an economic principle that states that individuals always make prudent and rational decisions i.e. the decisions that give them the greatest benefit or satisfaction. Is the rational choice theory a subjective or an objective test?

The rational choice theory per se is a subjective test because it looks into the level of benefit or satisfaction that is derived from the act and that level of benefit or satisfaction differs from individual to individual. It addition to that it also implies a choice i.e. in any given situation an individual has a choice as to whether to commit an act or otherwise. Likewise there is no law that compels a person to commit a crime. He or she can walk away from it at anytime and in most cases people are forgiving.

There may be other mitigation factors that compels a person to commit a crime for example duress, diminished responsibly, impulse control disorders or cases where the offender is not able to appreciate the nature or the result of his or her actions. These factors normally come into play during sentencing.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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Impulse Control Disorders – Pyromania

The fifth type of impulse control disorder is pyromania. Pyromania or pathological fire setting is characterized by various types of fire setting behavior that can be observed both during childhood and adolescence. It develops as a result of the complex interaction between individuals and other social and environment related factors.

Pyromania is more common among adolescents than it is with adults which tends to suggest that there is a possibility that those with pyromania may grow out of it.

It is a growing problem among teenagers in the United States and it is a major cause for concern because it puts millions of dollars’ worth of property at risk.

Pyromania is frequently associated with disorders like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, and anxiety.

It has been associated with abnormalities of impulsivity, social estrangement, cognitive flexibility, and executive function. Pyromania is a complex disorder involving multiple domains of cognition, behavior and personality.

Studies in Germany have shown that there may be a link between pyromania and the excessive consumption of alcohol. Adults who suffer from pyromania are more likely to start a fire under the influence of alcohol than otherwise. With teenagers, however, alcohol does not appear to be a factor.

In most instances pyromania sufferers usually experience a sense of relieve once the fire has been started. There may be some tension prior to committing the act of starting the fire and that may gradually build up to the point where the person suffering from pyromania is unable to resist the impulse to start a fire. There is no particular pattern as to where the fires are started and it is more often than not random.

Pyromania sufferers do not set fire for personal gain or are not motivated by financial rewards as opposed to arsonists. Arson is sometimes defined as the malicious burning of another’s house or property, or in some statutes, the burning of one’s own house or property for monetary gain say for example insurance payouts. Just for the record, over 62,000 arsons are committed annually in the United States which results in almost $1 billion in losses per year.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program defines arson as any willful or malicious burning or attempting to burn, with or without intent to defraud, a dwelling house, a public building, a motor vehicle, an aircraft or the personal property of another.

The element of intention is critical in determining arson. In total, there are four elements that form the crucial ingredients to arson – the lighting of the fire, intention or willfulness, malice and property.

By establishing if the above core elements are present in a fire, we can determine if the fire is a result of arson or otherwise.

Pyromania sufferers are not only interested in setting fires but are also interested in all aspects of fire setting or anything related to fire i.e. there in an un-explainable fascination for fire and all things related to fire that is above and beyond that of a normal person. Some even return to the scene of the fire to watch the fire department put the fire out.

Like other impulse control disorders pyromania is most likely caused by a chemical imbalance possibly serotonin related followed by a release of dopamine a neurochemical that results in pleasurable feelings or a sense of happiness.

Now, just to give us an idea of the type of damage someone who suffers from pyromania can do or cause, in March 1995, an Arletta man was described as a “classic pyro” after he had started almost 350 fires and caused damages in excess of 4 million dollars.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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Impulse Control Disorders – Kleptomania

Kleptomania is the next type of impulse control disorder that we’ll be looking at and it is not limited to stealing items of value. In fact, it is the exact opposite and the impulse to steal is more commonly related to or associated to items of little or no commercial value. It is a need to steal regardless of prevailing or underlying economic conditions. In the United States alone there are over 1 million kleptomaniacs.

The ability to distinguish between valuable items and non-valuable items can sometimes be a determining factor in establishing whether a person suffers from kleptomania or otherwise. For example, someone who only steals jewelry is highly unlikely to be suffering from kleptomania.

Kleptomaniacs are not motivated by a need or a desire to acquire a specific item or to obtain some form of monetary gain from the sale of the stolen items. They are motivated instead by an inherent need to steal. The act of stealing is more important than what is stolen.

Kleptomania is a repetitive cycle. Its starts with an urge or an impulse to steal that quickly escalates or festers into a need or a desire that is beyond control.

As the urge or impulse gets stronger the tension builds up inside until it boils over and culminates in the theft of an item. In most instances these are small items that can be hidden in the clothes the kleptomaniac has on or slid between other purchases.

Once the act of stealing has been completed i.e. the kleptomaniac has acquired what he or she has set his or her mind on, there is a sense of relief and the tension is released. The kleptomaniac can then return, temporarily at least, to his or her normal self.

The sense of relief however is short lived and it is followed by a feeling or shame, remorse or embarrassment coupled with the additional fear of being arrested.

Kleptomaniacs are not people who think that they are above the law. To the contrary they are often afraid of being arrested and this sometimes tends to play on their self-esteem. That fear however is temporary and lasts for only as long as there is another overwhelming urge to steal and the cycle begins all over again.

The causes of kleptomania have not yet been fully established or determined but according to some experts it is caused by chemical changes in the brain that are possibly serotonin related.

Serotonin is a chemical that helps control moods and emotions. Low levels of serotonin are common in people who suffer from impulse control disorders. It could also be caused by an imbalance in the brain’s opioid (substances that produce morphine-like effects) system which makes it more difficult for the brain to resist urges and it may also release another neurochemical, dopamine, which causes pleasurable feelings or happiness.

Kleptomania can sometimes co-exist with other mental disorders like depression, social phobia, panic attacks, anorexia (a potentially life threatening eating disorder) and bulimia (another potentially life threatening eating disorder).

The most common offense associated with kleptomania is shoplifting or retail fraud and it is considered and regarded as a serious offense.

It includes altering price tags, removing security tags or other theft prevention mechanisms, secreting an item while still in the store for example putting it in your purse or hiding it in a coat pocket, removing it from its package or concealing it in other merchandise. It also includes eating an item lifted off the shelves without paying for it while strolling or walking along the aisles.

Statically nearly 10% of US citizens have tried shoplifting at one time or another and that just tells us how common it is. Nonetheless it is a serious offense and even first time offenders can get themselves a criminal record.

Kleptomania is an enigmatic condition and it is among the very few psychiatric disorders in which crime is medicalized and used as a legal defense. The scientific literature on kleptomania is scarce. The Swiss physician Mathey who worked with the “insane” wrote of “a unique madness characterized by the tendency to steal without motive and without necessity.

It provides an interesting example in the study of insanity in that the disorder could lead to enough impairment to qualify for an insanity defense under a volitional or the irresistible impulse test (which considers an individual’s ability to control his or her actions) but arguably not under a cognitive test for insanity (which considers an individual’s capacity to decide if his or her actions were right).

The irresistible impulse test was first introduced in the case of Commonwealth vs Shaw (1844). “If then it is proved, to the satisfaction of the jury, that the mind of the accused was in a diseased and unsound state, the question will be, whether the disease existed to so high a degree, that for the time being it overwhelmed the reason, conscience, and judgement, and whether the prisoner…acted from an irresistible and in-controllable impulse. If so, then the act was not the act of a voluntary agent, but the involuntary act of the body, without the concurrence of a mind directing it.”

A cognitive test for insanity tests the defendant’s ability to decide or determine if his or her conduct was wrong – “It is an affirmative defense under any Federal statute that, at the time of the commission of the acts constituting the offense, the defendant, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his acts. Mental disease or defect does not otherwise constitute a defense (The federal insanity defense statute, 18 U.S.C.S. § 17(a)).

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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Impulse Control Disorders – Pathological Gambling

The next category or third type of impulse control disorder is pathological gambling and it is per se an extremely strong addiction to gambling and to some extent comparable to other addictions like smoking, drinking or drug abuse.

With an impulse control disorder, it is important to keep in mind that like all other impulse control disorders, it is a natural inability to resist and not something that has been stimulated or precipitated by external factors. Looking at it in this manner may help us isolate pathological gambling from other addictions.

Smoking addictions for example are caused by inhaling cigarette smoke and other chemical substances that are used in the making of cigarettes. Likewise drinking addictions are a result of repetitive drinking that has caused chemical changes in the brain to occur.

These changes have an impact on the senses and the more a person or individual drinks, the more he or she will be sensually gratified or the more pleasure he or she will derive. The changes are so severe that when the person or individual abstains from drinking he or she may suffer from withdrawal symptoms for example jittery hands or other symptoms caused by a lack of alcohol in the system.

Likewise, drug addiction is described as a chronic brain disease that stimulates compulsive drug seeking. It is a complexity that affects that brain but unlike pathological gambling it is precipitated by the victim’s own actions i.e. his or her intake of narcotics or narcotic substances.

Pathological gambling is dissimilar to the 3 addictions mentioned above in that it is not triggered by an intake or consumption of external products. It is an innate disability that is triggered by the brain’s inability to resist specific impulses but it leads to the same damaging results like alcoholism and drug addiction for example financial problems, job loss, family tensions and even crime or fraud. Having said that, people have become so health conscious that even smoking can lead to family problems.

Pathological gambling is not an issue, as some sources perceive it to be, of will power and it may be easier to understand it if we treat it like an illness.

It is a problem that only becomes evident during the late teens i.e. once a person or an individual becomes aware of what gambling really is. Therefore a perfectly happy child can develop a gambling problem in his or her later 20s because no-one is aware that the problem is actually there and it generally continues until the mid 40s.

It is only when a person becomes exposed to gambling that we become aware that he or she has a problem and this is one of the reasons why there are sometimes calls to ban easy access gambling centers or outlets especially when it comes to slot machines, something which a lot of people tend to get hooked on to. Exposure to gambling may increase the risk of developing pathological gambling and limiting exposure may help prevent it from occurring.

Pathological gambling may be hereditary or inherited. A University of Iowa study confirms that pathological gambling runs in families and shows that first-degree relatives of pathological gamblers are eight times more likely to develop the problem than relatives of people without a history of pathological gambling. The study also suggests that “pathological gambling may share an underlying genetic predisposition with other disorders”.

Studies show that there is a genetic component to gambling problems and it is present in both men and women. It further suggests that if either parent is addicted to gambling than the children may be as well. It is also possible that some communities are more prone to gambling disorders than others because it is more acceptable in their communities.

Pathological gambling may cause or result in problems other than placing a strain on finances and familial ties or bonds i.e. divorce, bankruptcy and in extreme cases where fraud has been established, a possible jail sentence.

It can also lead to alcohol associated or drug related problems and cause anxiety or depression. These problems may lead to other health problems like high blood pressure, heart attacks and in extreme cases may also lead a person to take his or her own life.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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Impulse Control Disorders – Intermittent explosive disorder

Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is an impulse control disorder typified by sudden episodes of unwarranted anger. It is a behavioral disorder that is characterized as explosive outbursts of anger and rage that is often disproportionate to the situation on hand. It includes both physical and verbal abuse. According to clinical sources it is a behavioral trait that begins with early life and continues into adulthood.

Individuals who suffer from IED can be described as aggressive individuals who display “intermittent violent behavior” and are “generally excitable, aggressive, and overresponsive to environmental pressures” with “gross outbursts of rage or of verbal or physical aggressiveness different from their usual or normal behavior”. These aggressive outbursts most commonly occur in response to minor provocation by a close intimate or associate.

IED is described as an inability to fightback, control or restrain impulses to act aggressively and results in serious damage to property and persons. Most of us would have stumbled across or encountered someone who suffers from some form of IED at one time or another. It is more common that experts actually believe and it is quite destructive.

An example of intermittent explosive disorder that we stumble across or read about on a day to day or daily basis is road rage i.e. where the actions of the one party does not in any way warrant the reaction it receives from the aggrieved party for example when an on-road incident results in shots being fired.

There are three prime causes that contribute to intermittent explosive disorders. Firstly, it is the environment that a person grew-up in. Man is a product of his environment and hence someone who grew-up in an environment that is violence prone is more likely to suffer from IED than someone who grew in a serene and peaceful environment.

Now that doesn’t mean that those who grew up in slums or ghettos are more likely to suffer from IED or that those that grew up in posh of upper class neighborhoods are less likely to suffer from IED.

It depends on the level of violence that a person is subjected to and we can find perfectly peaceful homes even in ghettos and we can find dysfunctional families i.e. where the parents are constantly fighting, in the best of suburbs.

If an individual is continuously exposed to violence from a young age or has come to accept that a certain degree of violence is acceptable even if the situation does not warrant it then there is a very likely possibility that the person may suffer from IED.

IED may also be genetic i.e. it may be inherited and according to some sources there may be a genetic component that is handed down that causes the individual to behave in the way and manner that he or she does. It is to some degree related to the principle cause of IED in that those who grew up in the same households are most likely to share the same characteristics as the rest of the occupants and hence someone who grew up in a violent household is more likely to exhibit more violent tendencies.

Thirdly, IED’s can also be the result of serotonin imbalance. Serotonin is an important chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) in the mind and a person is more inclined to react aggressively in given situations as a result of the chemical imbalance.

The following passage gives us an example of IED related behavior that has been brought to light during a particular trial – “it began with him causing a miscarriage as a 14-year-old by punching a pregnant 18-year-old in the stomach”. It tells us that IED type behavior is and can be related or tied to acts of an extremely aggressive nature.

Likewise, IED related verbal abuses tend to be more vulgar or more distressful than normal verbal insults which can be shrugged off as someone letting off some steam.

We need to know where to draw the line and to be able to differentiate between someone whose anger is normal and someone whose anger is a result of IED because we can dismiss the former as more or less harmless. The latter however needs to be treated with caution.

Individuals with IED often feel a sense of relief once they have released the rage that builds up inside and some do feel embarrassed or express remorse.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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Impulse Control Disorders – Trichotillomania

Motive is best defined as the reason or the rationale behind an act and while traditionally criminal law adheres to the principal that a crime consists of only two components i.e. the physical element (the act of committing the crime) and the mental element (a person’s awareness that he or she has or is about to commit a crime) motive nonetheless plays an important role. It is a key component in several defenses and is taken into account during sentencing.

Motive can be a mitigating factor and can lessen the gravity or the impact of a crime. The person who knowingly steals a loaf of bread and the person who knowingly robs a bank both satisfy the physical and mental element required to establish guilt but to treat both in the same manner would be a generalization. Let’s take it a step further. Let’s say that the hypothetical person who stole the loaf of bread did so to feed his hungry family and wouldn’t have committed the act otherwise. Is he or she to be treated in the same manner as the bank robber? Motive is relevant to ensure that perpetrators receive fair treatment especially when it comes to public perceptions.

When we are dealing with the mental element the assumption is that we are dealing with a person of normal fortitude and likewise motive, which is an intangible element, is also based on the notion that the person who committed the act is a person of normal strength and firmness of mind.

On that note it is also important or relevant to mention that there is nothing to indicate or suggest that people who suffer from psychosomatic illnesses have a higher propensity to commit crimes when compared to a normal person unless of course the illness itself compels the person to commit a crime (Impulse Control Disorder) for example kleptomania or the recurring urge to steal. In Australia for example only 4.4% of Australian homicide offenders are recorded as suffering from mental disorders.

Impulse Control Disorders

Under normal circumstances most people can control their urges and impulses. With people who suffer from impulse control disorders however the situation is more complex and they act on impulse i.e. they cannot resist the urge to do something that is often harmful to themselves or others. There are six categories of impulsive control disorders – trichotillomania, intermittent explosive disorder, pathological gambling, kleptomania, pyromania and impulsive sexual behavior. Impulse control disorders present unique issues for the criminal justice system and presents it with the challenge of distinguishing between a controllable act and an uncontrollable act.

Impulse control disorders become relevant during sentencing and the inability of the perpetrator to refrain from committing the act despite knowing that it is wrong complicates the process. While on the subject we must also consider the implications of Parkinson’s Disease (a progressive and chronic movement disorder that worsens over time). Recent research on the subject suggests that all six categories of impulse control disorders can occur in individuals with Parkinson’s Disease and it occurs in 3 – 5% of patients suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. Ultimately it should be doctors and phycologists who determine if an accused or a perpetrator suffers from an impulse control disorder.

When dealing with a person who is afflicted by an impulse control disorder the question of motive does not arise. Impulse control disorders are classed as repeated acts that have no clear rational motivation. Pyromania for example is categorized as multiple acts of, or attempts at, setting fire to property or other objects without an apparent motive and by a persistent preoccupation with subjects related to fire and burning.

Despite the improbability of being able to establish a clear and discernable motive it is worth looking at the six categories of impulse control disorders because it is an illness that most of us will stumble across at some point in time or other. Let’s start with Trichotillomania which is characterized by the repeated pulling of one’s hair. It may be hair from the scalp, the eyebrows or any other part of the body that the victim feels compelled to aggrieve.

There is a period of tenseness prior to committing the act and a sense of relief once the act is completed. Some researchers compare it to an unexplainable addiction or a compulsion that continues for the afflicted person’s lifetime. Often, a common symptom with those who suffer from Trichotillomania is self-imposed isolation because despite getting some measure of relief or satisfaction from committing the act they are ashamed of their actions and have difficulty in explaining it to others.

Other symptoms associated with Trichotillomania are repeated self-grooming, nail biting and lip or cheek biting. Many Trichotillomania sufferers commit the act without realizing it and the act is normally done during sedentary activities i.e. while they are seated at a desk, reading, watching television etc. An average person blinks 15 – 20 times per minute and up to 1,200 times per hour and he or she does so without realizing it. A similar comparison may be made to understand the nature of Trichotillomania where the actions are sometimes done without conscious thought.

With some Trichotillomania sufferers, there is an impulse to reach over to certain areas of their body and to start picking and pulling at the relevant areas especially when they experience an itching sensation. It is akin to an automated response.

It is important to recognize the symptoms and to try and be as understanding and as accommodating as possible. The inclusion of Trichotillomania here doesn’t mean that those with Trichotillomania have any sort of criminal tendencies or that Trichotillomania precipitates criminal behavior. It is to give us some insights on the challenges that those with Trichotillomania face on a daily basis.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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Tort – Public Nuisance

Public nuisance is the act of tampering with the right of the public to enjoy wholly or in part the rights over their respective property or land. Like private nuisance it can be committed by either doing an act which a reasonable man would not do or failing to do something that a reasonable man, under the given circumstances, would do. While private nuisance deals with the rights of the individual to enjoy the benefits of his or her property, public nuisance deals with the right of the public to enjoy the rights or benefits of their property.

In Benjamin v Storr (1874) the defendant had horses and carriages stationed outside the plaintiff’s coffeehouse all day long and as a result slowed down the movement of traffic. He was guilty of obstructing a public highway and his actions were deemed to be a public nuisance.

In addition to that his horses and carriages blocked the lights to the plaintiff’s coffeehouse and the smell of the horses put a lot of his customers off. The plaintiff sued and the court held that the plaintiff was entitled to claim because he had suffered additional damage that others had not.

Therefore, with public nuisance, despite the defendant being found guilty of committing the offence, individuals that have suffered further damage or damage more than others are also entitled to claim.

In order to be successful in an action for public nuisance, the aggrieved parties must have a proprietary interest in the property as per Tate & Lyle v Greater London Council (1983) and Hunter v Canary Wharf (1998).

In Tate & Lyle v Greater London Council (1983) the plaintiffs were owners of a sugar factory located close to a jetty and used boats and barges to transport the sugar that they produced to larger ships. At the time, the defendants were dredging the water for the purposes of constructing a jetty that would allow larger boats to dock.

The dredging churned up the dirt and grime from the river bed and the water subsequently became too dirty for the plaintiffs to use, possibly because what was churned up from the waterbeds made it unsafe for small boats and barges. The plaintiffs sued.

The court held that in order to be successful in a nuisance claim the plaintiff must have some proprietary interest in the property and because the plaintiffs didn’t, their claim failed.

In Hunter v Canary Wharf (1998), there were a large number of claims made against the developers of Canary Wharf Towers by residents living in the Isle of Dogs and the claim was based on the fact that the erection of the towers interfered with the television reception of those who lived in the Isle of Dogs. Additional claims were also made against London Docklands Development Corporation for excessive dust and other pollutants that resulted from the erection of the towers. A large number of the claimants did not have any proprietary interest. It was held that in order to be successful the plaintiffs must have a proprietary interest in the property.

In Attorney-General v PYA Quarries Ltd. (1957) the defendants were quarry blasting and the resultant noise and dust particles that were released into the air were a source of discomfort to those who lived in the area or the neighborhood. In addition to that it also aggravated the risk of the plaintiffs falling victim to ailments associated to breathing polluted air like asthma.

The plaintiffs sought redress in court and the court held that the defendants’ actions were a public nuisance. Public nuisance was interpreted as an act which “materially affects the reasonable comfort and convenience of a class of her Majesty’s subjects.”

The act of nuisance must be an overt act and the act of sending letters, pamphlets and newsletters etc. will not be deemed or categorized as an act that constitutes public nuisance.

In R v Rimmington (2005), the facts were somewhat similar to Hussain v Lancaster City Council (1999), the defendant sent some 538 racially discriminatory letters to the residents of a neighborhood. The court in line with the decision in Hussain v Lancaster City Council (1999) decided that the act of sending the letters, despite the content, was not an act of public nuisance.

If the courts were to consider such an act i.e. the act of sending out numerous letters, as an act of nuisance, it could have an impact on marketing and promotional materials that companies normally send out including brochures and catalogues. While the content is dissimilar, the mode or method of reaching out to the public is the same.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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Tort – Trespass

Trespass to land occurs when one person who does not have either implied or express permission enters the land of another. It is actionable per se and the proprietor of the land can turn to the court for assistance. Trespass to land can occur in various ways including mistakenly entering the property of another. In Basely v Clarkson (1681) the defendant while mowing his lawn accidentally entered the adjoining property and the plaintiff brought an action against the defendant in court. The court held that the defendant’s actions did indeed constitute trespass.

However, if the defendant was brought onto the land involuntarily i.e. without his or her consent than the person will not be deemed to be guilty of trespass but those who brought the plaintiff onto the land shall be deemed to be trespassers.

In Smith v Stone (1647) the defendant was carried onto the land by others and left there. The plaintiff, the lawful owner of the land brought an action in trespass and the courts decided that the defendant was not guilty. It was the people who had brought the defendant to the land against his or her will that were guilty.

Trespass also extends to placing an object, a chattel or an item on someone else’s land for example a signage without obtaining prior approval or consent. In Holmes v Wilson (1839) the defendants erected buttresses on the plaintiff’s land without obtaining prior permission. The plaintiff sued and was successful. The defendants were ordered to pay damages to the plaintiff.

However, despite being found guilty of trespass the defendants failed to remove the stone supports and the plaintiff sued again and was successful again. The court held that the defendants would be liable for each day the supports remained on the plaintiff’s land.

Similarly, in Konskier v Goodman ltd (1928) the defendants were builders who were employed to pull down the second storey of a house. They obtained the necessary permission and consent including that of the adjoining house owner because the work that was carried out would likely cause damage to the adjoining property and the defendants agreed to make good any damage to the house. As agreed the defendants made good on their promise but failed to clear up the rubbish from the construction works that was left in front of the adjoining house. The plaintiff, the owner of the adjoining house, brought an action in court.

The court in line with the decision in Smith v Stone (1647) decided that the defendants were guilty of trespass and that damages would accrue every day for as long as the rubbish remained in front of the plaintiff’s house.

Trespass to land can not only occur on the surface but also includes actions done below the surface like mining or excavation which extends into another’s land. In Bulli Coal Mining Co. v Osborne (1899) the defendants were miners and while excavating or tunneling underground dug through to the plaintiffs’ land and the aggrieved plaintiff sought redress in court. It was held that trespass also extents to any activity done below the surface of the land without first acquiring either implied or express permission from the legal owners of the land.

Trespass is not limited to intruding on someone else’s land and it also includes encroaching into someone else’s airspace. In Kelsen v Imperial Tobacco (1957) the defendant had erected a sign that protruded 4 inches into the plaintiff’s airspace and the plaintiff brought an action in court seeking an injunction to prevent the defendant from intruding into the plaintiff’s airspace. The court granted the injunction on the basis that the sign tampered or fettered with the plaintiff’s proprietary interest.

While in may seem trivial, intruding into someone’s airspace is in reality quite serious. Probably the most well-known incidence with regards to one party entering into the air space of another without permission, was the downing of Korean Airline Flight 007 which intruded on Russian airspace just west of Sakhalin Island.

Trespass also extends to owners of animals. Owners must take reasonable steps to ensure that their animals remain on their premises. In League Against Cruel Sports v Scott (1985) the defendant was an owner of foxhounds and his pets strayed on to a neighboring property belonging to the plaintiff and the plaintiff sued.

The court held that owners of animals were under a duty to ensure that their animals remained on their property and in the event that the animals strayed onto another property or an adjoining property than the owner will be guilty of trespass. The plaintiff was successful.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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