The Mcnaughten Rule

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The M’Naghten Rule: 1843

Aspects of the Criminal law in Canada are likely to be traced back several hundred years ago, where the legal system was established in England. Criminal law, derived from public law, includes the subject of criminal defenses, and in a narrower sense, the theory of not being criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder. The theory behind this defense can be traced back to England in the 1840’s. This era showcased the influential case of Daniel M’Nagthen. Believed to be a paranoid schizophrenic, M’Naghten shot and killed Edward Drummond, Secretary to the British Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel. M’Naghten was under the delusion that he was being persecuted by Peel who was at the time a strong advocate of the police enforcement system. The case states that Daniel M’Naghten, had shot the Secretary, Edward Drummond, thinking he was Peel and was put on trial for the murder of Edward Drummond. As this stood, M’Naghten pleaded not guilty on the statement that he was mentally ill and having delusions, which had influenced his action to murder Drummond. The court system of England pronounced M’Naghten as not guilty by reason of insanity. The case gave way to the now titled M’Naghten rule claiming that an individual cannot be found guilty on the grounds that he or she is unable to tell the difference between right and wrong (Siegle, McCormick 2010). The M’Naghten rule has set a foundation of defining criminal responsibility and allowed for the introduction of mental disorders and psychological conditions as being able to influence whether or not an individual can be held criminally accountable. There was great public outcry on this verdict which forced the House of Lords to amend the standards for the defense of insanity and resulted in the rule that states: “ every man is to be presumed sane, and that to establish a defense on the grounds of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing of the act, the...
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