• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The law relating to the defence of insanity is out dated and unsatisfactory. Reform is long overdue in the interests of both justice and common sense. Evaluate the accuracy of this statement.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

The law relating to the defence of insanity is out dated and unsatisfactory. Reform is long overdue in the interests of both justice and common sense. Evaluate the accuracy of this statement. Insanity, also known as insane automatism, is a defence which is defined in purely legal terms as opposed to a medical definition. There has been widespread criticism of the law relating to insanity, it has been described as unsatisfactory and out dated, with reform ''long overdue'' not only in judicial terms, but common sense. The rules relating to insanity originate from the M'Naughton rules, set out in 1843. These rules were created following public outcry following the decision in M'Naughton (1843), and stated that jurors ought to be told ''in all cases, everyone is presumed sane'' and to possess ''a sufficient degree of reason to be responsible for his crimes, until the contrary be proven to their satisfaction'', which basically means that the defendant is automatically responsible for their crimes unless proven otherwise, or guilty until proven innocent. To establish a defence on the grounds of insanity, it must be clearly proven that at the time of committing the act the accused party was labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind as to not know a. The nature and quality of the act he was doing, or if he did know it then b. ...read more.

Middle

Hennessy was another diabetic, who did not take his insulin for a period of 3 days. He was seen getting into a car that was reported stolen and drove off, but had no recollection of this. Hennessy pleaded guilty because he didn't want to be innocent through insanity. On his appeal, where he felt he should have been allowed to use non insane automatism, this was rejected by the Court of Appeal because diabetes was affecting his mind, and therefore was classed as insane. Quick was acquitted because his seizure was triggered by the external factor of not eating, however Hennessy's seizure was triggered by an internal factor, his diabetes. This is inconsistent and the same rule should be applied to anyone who is diabetic. Anyone who is found not guilty by reason of insanity would usually be referred to a mental institution, which more than explains why some people, such as Hennessy, did not want to use the defence. The medical definitions of insanity and diabetes are very far apart and this should be reflected in the law to stop injustices like this. Even the judges are uneasy about declaring conditions such as this 'insane'; LJ Lawton in Quick stated that ''common sense is affronted by the prospect of a diabetic being sent to a hospital when in most cases the situation can be rectified with a lump of sugar''. ...read more.

Conclusion

As the laws of insanity have been criticised for so many years and has been widely described as out dated, the statement is correct in acknowledging that the defence of insanity needs to be updated in the interest of common sense as well as in a judicial sense. Ordinary people with no medical knowledge are being forced to make a medical decision, based on rules where the definition is completely legal and ignores all medical terminology relating to mental health. Declaring someone as 'insane' is not an easy decision for a jury to make at the best of times. A jury may be so revolted by the crimes of the accused that they will not even consider finding him 'not guilty', even if it is by reason of insanity(Peter Sutcliffe aka the Yorkshire Ripper is a perfect example of this). Parliament can learn from other nations such as Canada who have already modernised their law relating to insanity, but they can also simply apply some common sense. The amount of advances in the field of mental health even since the 1990's is astonishing, which is widely agreed upon, so why the law of insanity relying on a legal definition set over 160 years ago? Insanity deserves a medical definition, and a vast update in the interests of both justice and common sense, and the statement is correct in acknowledging this. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Criminal Law section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Criminal Law essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    How effective was the defence of intoxication?

    3 star(s)

    His conviction was upheld as there was no evidence that his drinking was not voluntary, this shows involuntary intoxications are interpreted tightly. However, D may be able to rely upon the defence of involuntary intoxication when his drink is spiked with an entirely different type of intoxicant which is shown in Eatch (1980)

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Discuss whether the rules governing insanity as a defence in criminal law are in ...

    3 star(s)

    The first rule is that the defendant must have ?disease of mind? but here we are not talking about the medical definition. The cause of the disease of mind must be internal meaning that the likes of brain tumours don?t count.

  1. Using Cases to illustrate your points critically, decribe the Homocide Act 1957 and include ...

    by something said or done (R v. Doughty) which made the D suffer a sudden and temporary loss of self-control and a reasonable person would have done the same thing. There have been many problems concerning the words "sudden and temporary" loss of self-control.

  2. Compare the English legal system to that of two other countries

    * Witnesses - people called by the prosecution or defence to support their case. They are cross examined by the other side. * Defendant - the person who committed the crime. * Police and prison officers - make sure that defendant does not cause trouble or try to escape.

  1. The justifiable use of force in self-defence depends entirely upon the circumstances in which ...

    This, therefore, broadens the defence. The leading case in whether there is a duty to retreat is Bird (1985). The defendant lunged at her ex-boyfriend after his former girlfriend was holding her against the wall and threatened to hit her. She contained a glass in her hand which broke in his face and gouged out his eye.

  2. Explain the rules governing insanity as a defence in criminal law and discuss whether ...

    He was charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm. He was suffering from arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, causing a congestion of blood on the brain. This produced a temporary loss of consciousness, during which time D attacked. He admitted that he was suffering a 'defect of reason', but argued

  1. 'Law should encourage citizens in their civic duty to do "the right thing" in ...

    It was decided that a competent doctor would have noticed the disconnection within 15 seconds, which the defendant did not, therefore, he was guilty of gross negligence manslaughter. This exemption of doctors from the law of omissions is to prevent doctors from becoming afraid of criminal liability when performing an

  2. List and explain the six most important cases for the law on insanity, explaining ...

    the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords, they are now binding. This case is by far the most important case in the development of the law of insanity, as without it the rules of insanity would not have been formed.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work