Ocr Criminal Law - Insanity

Topics: Insanity defense, Mental disorder, Disability Pages: 3 (946 words) Published: April 29, 2013
Discuss whether the rules governing insanity as a defence in criminal law are in a satisfactory position. The defence of insanity is available for all for all offences except for those of strict liability (DPP v H). The burden of proof rests on the defence and must be proved on the balance of probabilities. Its definition comes from the case of M’Naghten which stated that ‘every man is presumed sane and to possess sufficient reason to make him responsible for his crimes’. The M’Naghten Rules define the defence as a ‘defect of reason’ caused by a ‘disease of the mind’, so that the defendant (D) doesn’t ‘know the nature and quality’ of his act, or doesn’t realise that his actions are wrong. If successful the verdict is ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’. A ‘defect of reason’ means that D’s power of reason must be impaired. The case of Clarke stated that a defect of reason cannot be mere absent-mindedness or confusion. ‘Disease of the mind’ must be in internal cause, although can be mental or physical. The law on insanity has been developed via judicial precedent and courts have decided that insanity covers the most surprising conditions as long as they affect the mind. For example; hardening of the arteries (Kemp), epilepsy (Sullivan), diabetes where D has forgotten to take insulin and has become hyperglycaemic (Hennessey) and even sleepwalking (Burgess). The definition also mentions ‘not knowing the nature and quality of the act’. This may be because D is unconscious or has impaired consciousness, or where he can’t understand what he’s doing because of a mental condition. The defence can still be used if D is in fact aware of the nature and quality of his act, but is not aware that it is wrong. However if D is aware of both these things then the defence is not available, even if he is suffering from a mental condition (Windle). The case of Windle where upon arrest D said ‘I suppose they will hang me for this’ – and thus admitting awareness of the wrongness of...
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