In this project, I will consider whether the current law defence of insanity is ineffective, out-dated and in need of reform. I will do so by considering few criticisms of the insanity defence under the M’Naghten rules by academics like Peter Blood and others, as well as by reviewing possible law reform in the Insanity and automatism Scoping paper.
My main aim is to uncover particular parts of the law which urgently need a reform such as sleepwalking, diabetes and the distinction between external and internal factors, by comparism of the contrasting leading cases. I would also like to point out to the legal definition of insanity and to the out-dated M’Naghten rules (test).
The concept of insanity as a defence was established in the early eighteenth century in the Arnold’s case (1724) and was further developed in the late 18th century in the Hadfield’s case (1800), but the standart test of criminal liability was only formed after the case of Daniel M’Naghten (1843). This case established the special verdict of ‘not guilty by reason of insanity‘ which leaves the D under control of the courts. Another problem, criticised by Peter Blood is that the burden of proof is on the D, which means that the D must prove his defence of insanity on the base of the balance of probabilities and not beyond any reasonable doubt.
The legal definition of insanity:
The legal definition of insanity has not changed since 1842. The Law Commission 1965, the main body which makes proposals for changes, included insanity in the 10th programme of reform. They stated But the commission created the defence of diminished responsibility instead what I think is wrong.
Over the years, academics have identified uncertainty in the insanity defence...
... middle of paper ...
...ause as internal or external. In the case of T (1990) whe-re the court could not decide if the post-traumatic stress resulting from the D rape was an external or an internal factor. Even the psychiatrists‘ opinions were different.
In Wiseman (1972), where psychiatrists stated that the murder of her two children had committed in a ‘dissociative state‘ which led to the unconscious involuntary actions.
Examples of external causes can include - a blow to the head, Sneezing (Whooley), an attack by a swarm of bees (Hill v Baxter) or an effect of the drugs (Lipman).
According to the scoping papers English legal system designated the distinction in Hennesey (1989):
Consequently, it is very difficult to separate what factors are responsible for the crime committed which is leading to unfairness. This can be seen in the cases addressing issues with sleep-walking.
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