The police don’t administer the Mental Health legislation; how could they?
They do in Australia, in terms of deciding who should be scheduled and conveyed for further evaluation.
Not so. In my own state, involuntary committal can only come following an examination by a psychiatrist in an authorised hospital, and such an examination can only be undertaken on referral by a medical practitioner.
Obviously somebody has to ask the medical practitioner to make the referral, and that somebody could be the police, but it is much more usually the patient’s family. Even if the patient’s behaviour has brought them into contact with the police, it will still normally be the family who ask a doctor to refer the patient for psychiatric examination. The role of the policy typically does not go beyond suggesting to the family that they should do this. I don’t think the situation is very different in other states. It’s not accurate to say that the police administer the mental health legislation.
Thirdly, when she did kill her son and was charged with murder, the issue of whether to plead insanity or diminished responsibility will have come up. It doesn’t appear from the reports that the issue was put to the jury. This will have been primarily her decision, and there’s nothing in the reports to suggest that she was incompetent to make that decision.
She's just made the decision to kill her son.
First, an awful lot of people who are charged with murder have made the decision to kill the victim. This isn’t evidence of mental illness or diminished responsibility. In the circumstances of this case, many advocates of mercy killing would say that Mrs Inglis’s actions were entirely rational and understandable, and not at all suggestive of mental illness.
Secondly, Mrs Inglis hadn’t “just” made that decision. She had made (and implemented) that decision months before. Even if she were mentally ill at the time – and the mere fact that she killed her son is not proof of that - it doesn’t follow that she was ill at the time of her trial, and so not competent to take decisions about her own defence. Bear in mind that when insanity or diminished responsibility is
pleaded, it is normally pleaded by the decision of a defendant who has been judged competent to stand trial. Mrs Inglis took control of her own defence, and instructed her own lawyers, and there is nothing in the newspaper reports to suggest that, at the time of the trial, she was not competent to do so.
With regard to criminals suffering mental health, it's estimated that 80% of people in jail in Australia suffer a mental illness, therefore all these matters must be re-assessed for intent. Medical professionals are charged such that any failure can be deemed malpractice. The fact that an illness is not detected also falls under malpractice.
Well, you raise an interesting question here. Assuming that somebody suffers from a mental illness, does it follow that they cannot form the kind of intent necessary for criminal responsibility?
This isn’t the view of Australian law. Interestingly, it also isn’t the view of an awful lot of mental health advocates. Automatically to strip somebody who is mentally ill of all responsibility for their decisions and actions is also to strip them of all capacity, all autonomy. It dehumanises and marginalises them in a very profound way.
In general, from a legal point of view mental illness or mental impairment only provides a defence if it is so profound that the patient cannot understand his own actions, or cannot control his own actions, or cannot perceive that they are considered to be wrong, or if the patient suffers from a delusion which, if true, would justify his actions This normally requires a fairly severe degree of mental illness.
You can argue that the legal standard is wrong, and needs revision. But not many people would argue that the proper rule should be that simply to be mentally ill absolves people of all responsibility for what they do, however terrible
On your third point a woman has killed son after a tragic and serious injury, not a man in the street or as a result of a violent crime.
With so much the break down of family values and the anthropological place of men as the pillar of strength I cannot understand how a court would not attribute diminished responsibility on that point considering the circumstances. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly responsibility has been placed on women, whilst it is upheld women suffer a certain frailty.
The circumstances are leading that in a state of shock and with depressed reason she may have accepted the conclusion that her son's life was over, which if self-perpetuating, could have lead her to believe she'd found conclusive evidence sufficient to take the action she took. Remembering of course we are talking about a crime of passion, or a mercy killing. But the UK is harsh on such issues. What's her previous record, where did she live, she was a nurse which further leads to knowledge of his prognosis, one I do not believe carried weight simply because of the cause and liability of the accident causing the injury, an unfortunate downfall of public health is this risk of liability.
Women are more likely to be diagnosed with mental illness than men, but this does not mean that women are assumed to be less legally competent or responsible than men. If Mrs Inglis didn’t herself have a mental illness or a mental impairment then the fact that she is a woman, and that many other women do, is not really relevant.
I do think the circumstances you point to are relevant here. You have to have enormous sympathy for Mrs Inglis, and also to recognise the fact that she is no threat to society; she has killed probably the only person she will ever kill. But I think those considerations go not to the question, not of whether what she did was wrong, but to the question of how, given that it was
wrong, society should respond. Her sentence seems altogether too harsh to me. But I’m not convinced that this means an acquittal would have been the right judgment.