Existing Legislation on Mental Disorders and Criminal Cases
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Having considered philosophical aspects of free will and determinism in the previous chapter, we turn here to reflections on the existing laws regarding mental disorders and criminal responsibility. We will see that legislation and case law in the English-speaking world have resulted in muddled and counter-intuitive verdicts. Rules for determining the sanity of the defendant at the time of the alleged crime are derived from the 19th century M’Naghten case and place emphasis on whether he or she was suffering from a “disease of the mind”. It is application of this phrase which has most frequently run contrary to straightforward interpretation. Sensible recommendations for overhaul of the law on criminal liability and mental health have recently been drafted, but are unlikely to be enacted in the foreseeable future.
KeywordsAutomatism Criminal liability Diminished responsibility Disease of the mind Insanity Mens rea M’Naghten rules
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