Criminal Law
Pleading Mental Illness As A Defence Against Committing A Crime

Pleading Mental Illness As A Defence Against Committing A Crime

In the current caseload of any criminal lawyer there will undoubtedly be those cases where the person accused of the crime was suffering from some form of mental illness.

According to Criminal Lawyers Perth, the degree of that mental illness will obviously vary from client to client, but in some of the extreme cases there is the possibility that the defendant might wish to enter a plea of ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’.

If this is the case, and it can be shown that the person’s mental state is so bad, then consideration might even be given by the court that they are not even fit to stand trial.

To arrive at this conclusion a court will have ordered detailed reports from psychologists and/or psychiatrists who will complete that report with regards to the person’s mental condition.

If it were the case that the person was deemed not fit to stand trial, it would be done so on the basis that it was thought the defendant would not be able to

1) Understand the consequences of actions they had done

2) Understand the nature of any punishment if found guilty

3) Understand the aim of any punishment

Accordingly, they would be deemed in no fit mental condition to follow the proceedings within which they were going to be tried, and thus the trial would be called off.

The next step is likely to involve the person being sent to a psychiatric facility for treatment with the security level of that facility chosen according to how severe the crime was that they are accused of.

The progress, if any, is monitored to establish if the person is or is not fit to stand trial based on their mental state at that time. Assessments are also made as to whether it is thought expedient for that person to be kept there, based on the level of threat that they pose to others.

There has to be a clear distinction made between someone being considered insane, versus those that might have a mental illness.

Insanity is regarded as a condition where the person is not fully aware of the actions they are taking, even if those actions are criminal. This applies whether the person is robbing a corner store, or, tragically, takes the life of another person.

Where someone has a mental illness, unfortunate though it might be, and even if it was a contributory factor in their actions, it does necessarily follow that their mental illness removed their capacity for knowing that they were committing a crime or not.

As the law stands, mental illness does not negate or reduce someone’s criminal responsibility if they commit a crime. This principle also applies when someone uses the defence that they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time they committed the crime.

As far as the law is concerned that person was personally responsible for drinking the alcohol or taking the drugs and did so in full awareness of what they were doing. If they were to commit a crime while under the influence of either, they are still ultimately criminally responsible for their actions.

These are a completely different set of circumstances from someone who is genuinely insane at the time they committed a crime whereby their entire reasoning process and any sense of criminal responsibility would not be present at all.