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PSYCH 3CC3 Lecture Notes - Chartered Management Institute

Course Code
Richard B Day

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Lecture 27 (Monday, March 18, 2013)
History of Insanity Verdict
- Insanity is not a psychological/psychiatric concept, it is purely a legal concept and it relates your state
of mind to things that must be demonstrated in order for you to be judged guilty
- The nature of insanity is defined by the legal system, not by psychiatry, clinical psychology, or any
other science, it is purely legal
- Rome  in ancient times, mental order itself was a punishment itself so they didn’t want to pile
another punishment on top of that with regards to legal punishment, so Romans were very lenient with
individuals who they believed were suffering from a mental defect
- England  ideas about insanity and mental illness and reducing your guilt go back about a thousand
years, jurists were writing about this as early as 1200-1300
- Our modern views on insanity sprang from the British legal system and came from out of the late 18th
and 19th centuries
- There are two important cases in British legal history that shaped our views today and set the criteria
for what is insanity
1. Hadfield case (1800)  planned assassination of king
- Mr. Hadfield had been a British soldier and in the late 1700s he had been severely injured and
suffered from brain damage from a battle in France
- In 1800, he undertook to murder the king (George III)
- Hadfield believed (we would now say it was under the delusion) that if he killed the king he would be
hanged and if he were hanged it would speed up the second coming of Christ
- At that time, the standard for insanity was that you were operating on a reflex and you did not
understand the consequences of your behaviour
- The problem for the defense in the Hadfield case was that Hadfield did understand the consequences
of his behaviour
- The standard at the time  “Lost to all sense…incapable of forming a judgment upon the
consequences of the act which he is about to do”
- His barrister, Erskine, had to argue against this and believed that we needed to view it from a different
- Erskine said: Hadfield lost to reality. His delusions “unaccompanied by frenzy or raving madness”
were insanity
- He believed that the fact that he was lost to reality it should have been an indication to
- The judge in this case agreed with him and acquitted Hadfield of treason
- Normally, prior to this case, if you were acquitted by reason of insanity, you were simply set free and
you walked out of the court a free man

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Lecture 27 (Monday, March 18, 2013)
- The judge in this case ordered that Hadfield be confined in a mental institution
- There was a quite of bit of publicity and uproar around this case and around this verdict
- As a result, parliament passed the “Criminal Lunatics Act,” which mandated detention for the insane
- Hadfield spent the rest of his life in the Bethlehem Institute for the Insane
- The significance of this case was that it established that you didn’t have to be completely lost to sense
and incapable of judging the consequences of one act, but rather that one had to be completely out of
touch with reality that one did not understand the true nature of what was going to happen
2. M’Naughten case (1843)  planned murder of PM
- This is the one that set the standard for insanity, even today
- M’Naughten was labouring under the belief that there was a vast plot going on somehow that
involved the pope in Rome and entire Tory government in London including PM Robert Peel
- He decided to terminate this plot by killing the prime minister, by murdering Robert Peel
- He stood outside a street and waited for someone to come out and shot the first person who came out
dead, it was not the prime minister, it was his secretary (Mr. Drummond)
- He went to trial and pleaded and was found not guilty by reason of insanity
- The standard at the time (right/wrong test)  “at the time of committing the act, he 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 what he was doing was wrong.
- This standard still exists today
- The basic elements of the M’Naughten rule
1. Defect of reason due to disease of the mind
2. Ignorant of nature and quality of the act
3. Unaware, or unable to determine, that act was wrong
History of Insanity Verdict
1. American Law Institute (1962)
- Standard  “if at the time of his conduct as a result of mental disease or defect he lacks substantial
capacity either to appreciate the criminality (wrongfulness) of his conduct or to conform his conduct to
the requirements of law”
- You could in fact know what you are doing is wrong but in the grips of an irresistible impulse of some
kind and that too under the ALI standard
2. M’Naughten standard

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Lecture 27 (Monday, March 18, 2013)
- Standard  “at the time of committing the act, he 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 what he was doing was wrong”
- In North American jurisprudence, one or both of these are very often the criteria that have an insanity
- There are a number of jurisdictions in the United States that do not allow a plea of insanity, it cannot
even be entered (especially states in the west, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming)
- Most jurisdictions do have one of these standards as a plea that you can enter as a defendant
3. Canada Criminal Code (C-30) of 1992
- The Canadian legal code has changed its wording and description of what was once called insanity
- In 1992, the description and wording was changed to our current NCRMD
- Standard  “No person is criminally responsible for an act committed or an omission made while
suffering from a mental disorder that rendered the person incapable of appreciating the nature and
quality of the act or omission or of knowing that it was wrong.
- This is still enforced today
- It is a right/wrong decision
- The suggestion that an individual is NCRMD is typically raised by the defense, but it can also be
raised by the Crown and at anytime before a verdict is reached
- Raised by defense, argued by Crown
- Proof standard: “beyond a balance of the probabilities”
- It is interesting that in most verdicts the standard is beyond a reasonable doubt, for the NCRMD the
standard is looser than that, it is beyond a balance of probabilities
- “Beyond a reasonable doubt” is very vague and it is unclear what that means in terms of uncertainty,
some people say that you have to be 90-95% certain beyond a reasonable doubt
- “Beyond a balance of probabilities” is a 51th percent test
51th percent test = if you are more than 50 percent certain that this individual meets the criteria, then
you should support the verdict of NCRMD, so it is a less stringent standard
- You don’t get off of being released into the community if you are found NCRMD
- You will be released if you don’t pose any risk to the public, typically you will be advised to obtain
psychological care
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