List and explain the six most important cases for the law on insanity, explaining why they are the most important cases when it comes to the development of the law.

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List and explain the six most important cases for the law on insanity, explaining why they are the most important cases when it comes to the development of the law.

The six cases I consider most important in the development of the law on insanity is M’Naghten (1956), Kemp (1956), Clarke (1972), Burgess (1991), Quick (1973) and Windle (1952). Each of these cases has been vital in the development of the law on insanity, for different reasons, which will be discussed in this essay. 

M’Naghten 1843

Daniel M’Naghten was charged with the murder of the then Prime Minister’s secretary. M’Naghten was described as ‘an extreme paranoiac entangled in an elaborate system of delusions’, which led him to believe he was being persecuted by the ‘Tories’, who were to blame for various personal and financial misfortunes.  He had intended to kill the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel. Medical witnesses testified that he was insane, and the jury found him not guilty on the grounds of insanity. He was committed to Broadmoor where he remained until his death 20 years later.

Despite this, there was public outrage at the fact he had been acquitted of all wrong-doing, and so the House of Lords created the rules as an attempt to clarify the defence. It must be noted that these rules were not made in the case of M’Naghten; they were created after the case in a joint effort of 14 Law Lords to create consistency regarding insanity. The rules were created as a result of the M’Naghten case though, which is why the rules governing insanity are known as the M’Naghten Rules. The most important part of the rules are as follows:
The jurors ought to be told in all cases that every man is presumed to be sane, and to possess a sufficient degree of reason to be responsible for his crimes, until the contrary is proved to their satisfaction; and that to establish a defence on the ground of insanity it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong.
The rules must be satisfied for a defence of insanity to be used. These words were originally only persuasive precedent; however through the application of the rules by 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.

Had the case of M’Naghten not happened, the law on insanity could look very different than it does. A later generation of judges may have decided to create the rules, or maybe Parliament would have taken it upon themselves to make the law regarding insanity. The rules have been followed by a great number of cases, all of which may have been decided differently if it had not been for the M’Naghten rules. Nonetheless, the M’Naghten case is by far the most important case regarding insanity, and has been adopted by a number of countries, which only increases its importance to the development of the law on insanity.

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Kemp (1956)

The second element of the M’Naghten rules stated that the defendant must be suffering from a disease of the mind. As the defendant in M’Naghten was suffering from paranoia, which is a psychological and mental illness, it might have been decided that only mental illness could be included in the M’Naghten rules.

In Kemp, the defendant suffered from a physical illness known as arteriosclerosis, which caused the arteries to harden, causing congestion of blood on the brain. This produced a temporary loss of consciousness, during which time, D made an entirely motiveless and irrational attack on his wife ...

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