R vs Sorrel

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Goodmorning/afternoon Mr Doherty and Miss Dundas. The case of the murder of Michael Furlong is most certainly a controversial case. On the 3rd of June 2002 Furlong was shopping at a hardware store in Smithfield and as he left the store, Michael Sorrell, a chronic paranoid schizophrenic approached Furlong, slit his throat 3 times with a knife and then chased the victims brother who was shopping with Furlong at the time. Later that day he was apprehended asleep in his vehicle with a large hunting knife, presumably the knife with which the offence was committed. Sorrell was also in possession of the victims wallet which enabled the police to link him to the offence. He was then held in custody by police until the trial 4 days later.

There are a number of issues raised by this case such as how the criminal justice system deals with people with mental illness. Sorrell pleaded not guilty as at the time of the act was suffering from a mental illness and not responsible by law in killing the deceased. in the Supreme Court of NSW 7th February 2003 was found not guilty of murder on the grounds that he was mentally ill when he committed the crime and was ordered to be detained in place of strict security as well as monitoring his mental health.

There are several specific criteria which must be met in order for a person to be considered to have committed a criminal offence under Australian law. Besides showing that the person committed the unlawful act (Actus reus), a mental component must too be satisfied. The mental component is referred to as the mens rea, meaning “intention to do wrong”. This intention must be established for most findings of criminal responsibility. The importance of mens rea is obvious. If an accused person is suffering from a mental disorder which deprives them of reason and understanding, the mens rea necessary for criminal responsibility may be lacking.

If an individual lacks the capacity for choice or voluntary action, it follows that,...
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