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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 89306 Find in a Library
Title: Modern Psychiatry and Neurology and the Problem of Responsibility (From Mental Disorder and Criminal Responsibility, P 91-110, 1981, by Stephen J Hucker, et al - See NCJ-89302)
Author(s): M Roth
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 20
Sponsoring Agency: Butterworth-Heinemann
Woburn, MA 01801-2041
Sale Source: Butterworth-Heinemann
225 Wildwood Ave
Woburn, MA 01801-2041
United States of America
Language: English
Country: Canada
Annotation: This chapter discusses modifications of the M'Naghten rules, sin versus mental disease, automatism, and prediction of dangerousness, with particular reference to legal developments in the United Kingdom.
Abstract: In the United Kingdom, the Butler Committee (1975) modified the M'Naghten rules in recommending new provisions for the defense of 'not guilty on evidence of mental disorder' that has two components. The first component hinges on a decision regarding mens rea. If the accused is judged to have a disorder of mind that deprived him of mens rea, the verdict of 'not guilty on evidence of mental disorder' is mandatory, but a clear causal connection between mental disorder and the absence of mens rea is required. The second component provides for exemption from conviction for those having 'severe' mental illness or subnormality at the time of the act at issue. Characteristics of a severe mental illness are specified. The Butler proposals would enable judges to recommend a wide range of alternatives to a life sentence. Many critics of the insanity defense and the defense of diminished responsibility complain that these defenses increasingly excuse actions previously deemed manifestations of sin, but this criticism is answered by the requirements that clear and compelling evidence of disorder be presented, independent of any offense or succession of offenses. Cases of automatism have played a prominent part in the literature of crime based in mental disorder. This includes such diseases as epilepsy, other temporal lobe lesions, sleep-walking and clouded states, and cerebral disease. The value and validity of the diagnoses and formulations that can be made by psychiatrists in courts of law or in the deliberations that precede the parole of prisoners must be judged in part by the predictions that can be made from them. Although Peter Scott was pessimistic about the reliable predictions of dangerousness, he urged that where such decisions must be made, the evidence be collected under the headings of the offense, past behavior, personal data, and social circumstances. Twenty-four references are provided.
Index Term(s): Criminal responsibility; Criminality prediction; Dangerousness; Insanity defense; Mental disorders; United Kingdom (UK)
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