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.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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