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August 19, 2018

THE DEFENCE OF INSANITY

The Emergence and Proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra
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Everyone’s mental health at one time or the other is questioned, I suspect, as no one has a perfect mental health. Even moments of depression and illness can be very revealing.

Your mental health can be affected by cerebral malaria which can put you in a state of delirium in which a physical violence or crime may be committed. Alcohol can make one lose control of one’s capacity to control his action whilst debilitating senility can rob one of the mental capacity to make a will.

Even Margaret Thatcher died  fighting dementia even though she was the prime minster of Britain at one time.

 

Mental illness is not a respecter of person.

Its effects are well understood by our criminal jurisprudence which can excuse an accused person on grounds of insanity, culpability for a criminal indictment.

 

To explain the nature of Insanity, let’s take some illustration:

Mr. X a high time roller believes himself, irresistible to women and made advances at Y , a lonely lady in search of a husband who, in taking her time said ‘No’ as women are wont to do, as not to show that they are push over’s. X enraged because he’d spent so much to entertain Y, tried to force her to have a sexual relationship which she resisted.

X hits out at Y and rapes her; only at the end to find out that Y had died from the blows .He pleads insanity at his trial. Would he succeed?

In another development, Mr. Obi a drug user, travelled to Germany as a courier. He was caught at the airport with large quantity of heroin and did time for 2 years by which time his mind had become impaired and he became neurotic, psychotic and delusional. He was firmly of the belief that the CIA was trying to kill him and all white people had an agenda to destroy him.

He returned back to Nigeria and lived an unstable life with his long time wife Catherine who was aware of his condition. Obi kept everything he ate and drank locked up because of his delusion. One night he woke up and found his wife tinkering with his padlocked fridge and had a sudden conviction that she was an agent of the CIA and struck and killed her with a metal object .He was charged with the murder of his wife. He pleaded insanity. Would he succeed?

 

What is Insanity?

It does not mean simply to be ‘mad’ or crazy. The term is deeper in criminal law. Insanity presumes inability to understand what one has done or was doing at the time of doing it. It refers to unsoundness of mind, a mental infirmity of not knowing the difference between right and wrong.

The defence has to be raised by the accused otherwise he is presumed to be of sound mind.

According to  NGWUTA JSC In POPOOLA VS THE STATE 2013 Vol  236 LRCN PT1:

“The law is settled that everyone is presumed to be of sound mind and to have been of sound mind at any time in question until the contrary is proved”

The word’ presume’ means the thing being presumed may be rebutted see Karima Vs The state 2005 4 ACLR 438 at 413

 

The Burden Of Proof:

As I have stated, the burden of proof lies on the accused and not on the court or the prosecution. The prosecution cannot set out to establish what the law presumes in its favour.

However, there are fundamental points to be established in the defence of insanity

The court in POPOOLA  VS THE STATE supra, set out what must be borne in mind or kept in view in the consideration of the defence  of insanity:

  1. The law presumes every person including any person accused of crime to be sane until the contrary is established. See section 27 of the criminal code in pari material.
  2. The prosecution does not set out to prove what the law presumes in its favour.
  3. An accused person who raises insanity in his defence has the onus of proving such insanity cast on him. It is not proof beyond reasonable doubt but is proof of reasonable probability, sufficient to create a reasonable doubt on the mind of fair minded Jury as to the insanity of the accused.
  4. Insanity is a blanket term embracing considerable variety of mental abnormalities, neurosis, and psychosis.
  5. To constitute a defence, the mental condition relied on must be such that (a) could and did deprive the accused of the capacity to understand what he was doing, (b) to control his actions, or (c) to know that he ought not to do the act or make the omission complained of as constituting the actus reus of the crime charged.

In the instant case of POPOOLA’s CASE, more clarity and illumination was made by ARIWOOLA JSC thus:

“To constitute a defence on the ground of insanity, it has been held that a defect of reason must be shown to be of particular kind. It must be such as to bring the case within one of the following:

(a)Did the accused know the nature and quality of the act, if not insanity is a defence.

 

(b) In the alternative, if the accused did not know the nature and quality of his act, did he know that it was wrong, if not insanity is a defence.

(c)If he knew the nature and quality of his act and knew it was wrong,, was he under a delusion in some other respect? If so he is in the same situation of responsibility as if the fact has been as he had imagined: partial delusion.

With these explanations in mind, I ask you to pass your judgments on Obi and X in the instant illustrations above. Are they guilty as charged or can they avail theirselves of the defence of Insanity successfully?

You are required to be fair minded.


 

 

 

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