Criminal Justice and Mental Health Defence

Criminal Justice and Mental Health Defence
Legally reviewed by: Kevin Waddingham In: Criminal Defence

Mental health defence plays a crucial role in criminal cases, extending far beyond the legal aspects. Often mental health defence can involve a delicate balancing act regarding keeping the public safe while assuring the defendant gets the help they need. It is essential to seek the legal expertise of a criminal defence solicitor to help navigate this complexity to help ensure fair treatment and promote the well-being of all involved parties.

When is Mental Health Used in Criminal Cases

In criminal defence cases, mental health evaluations serve as a common practice to determine the defendant’s mental state at the time of the crime and to assess their ability to stand trial. These evaluations also play a vital role in determining the risk of reoffending and help in providing the defendant with appropriate treatment.

When presented in court, mental health evaluations offer valuable insights and information. However, their use can be a subject of controversy due to their potential for objectivity and varying interpretations. In some instances, mental health evaluations have been misused to justify harsher sentences for defendants deemed as “mentally ill,” sparking further debate and scrutiny within the legal system.

Criminal Law Mental Illness Defence

Defences based on mental health evaluations can prove invaluable in criminal cases. After a mental health evaluation, two types of defences can be used. This is the insanity defence and diminished capacity defence.

The Insanity Defence

To utilise the insanity defence, the defendant must claim that they were unable to comprehend the nature and consequences of their actions. Therefore they could not differentiate between right and wrong at the time of the offence due to a mental illness or defect. Typically, this involves undergoing a mental health evaluation and meeting specific criteria set by the jurisdiction where the offence took place. In most cases, the defendant is required to provide evidence demonstrating their legal insanity at the time of the offence to make the insanity defence applicable.

Diminished Capacity Defence

The diminished capacity defence revolves around the defendant claiming that their mental state during the offence hindered them from forming the specific intent necessary for the crime. Unlike the insanity defence, the diminished capacity defence does not require the defendant to meet the legal criteria for insanity. Instead, the defendant must establish a direct connection between their mental illness and their incapacity to develop the required intent for the offence.

Benefits of a Mental Illness Defence

Using a mental illness defence can have several benefits such as reduced charges or a not guilty verdict. Additionally, using a mental illness defence can open up access to mental health treatments and resources.

Drawbacks of Mental Illness Defence

Although a mental illness defence can help the defendant’s case, there can be drawbacks. One example is that mental illness defence can often come with stigma as well ask the risk of being found guilty and facing severe penalties. Additionally, some critics argue that mental illness defence can undermine the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system by allowing defendants to avoid accountability.  

Therefore, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of using a mental illness defence for a case. Defendants who are considering using this defence should always seek the legal expertise of a criminal defence solicitor who can guide them through the legal process.

Importance of Health Treatments for Defendants

For most defendants who suffer from mental illness, getting the right course of support and treatment is of great importance. This can help to aid in their recovery and rehabilitation. Often when a defendant can get the right support, the chances they will re-offend is reduced. However, access to mental health treatment can be limited for defendants. This is particularly an issue for those with a lack of financial resources or who are incarcerated.

Balancing Justice and Public Safety

One of the hardest parts to balance regarding defendants with mental health issues is balancing justice and public safety. Although the defendant might not be fully responsible for their actions, they can still pose a threat to public safety. Making sure the public is safe while the defendant receives the right treatment can be a difficult balancing act. It is widely argued that no matter the crime, mental health aid should remain available to those who need it. This especially, helps stops the defendant from reoffending, therefore keeping the public safer.

Seeking a Mental Health Defence

Cartwright King’s solicitors have the expertise to assist individuals dealing with the intricate mental health of criminal cases. When facing legal proceedings, mental health evaluations can play a crucial role by offering valuable insights to the court. However, it is important to acknowledge that these evaluations can be a subject of controversy.

Defences based on mental illness are occasionally employed to argue that defendants should not bear full responsibility for their actions. While such defences are relatively rare, they remain a controversial part of the legal system. Putting mental health treatment for defendants at the forefront is of utmost importance. However, oftentimes access to adequate treatment can be limited, posing additional challenges.

Balancing justice and public safety in cases involving mental illness is undeniably complex and often without a simple solution. Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge the large role mental health plays in criminal cases. By doing so, we can strive towards a justice system that is understanding, fair and effective.

Legal Disclaimer.

All advice is correct at time of publication.