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Exploring differences between successful and unsuccessful mental disorder defences

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criminal insanity, not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, NCRMD, ultimate issue, psychiatric opinion, forensication

Abstract (summary)

Beyond the legal definition of criminal insanity, the verdict of “not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder” (NCRMD) is a social construction. This study explores the differences between individuals who raise the mental disorder defence and are found NCRMD and those who raise this defence and are found guilty. Files of individuals assessed for criminal responsibility over a two-year period on a remand unit at a forensic psychiatric hospital were examined. Approximately one quarter (N = 36) of these individuals were found NCRMD, and the remaining 102 individuals were found guilty. The study examines differences between these groups along various dimensions such as demographic characteristics, offence characteristics, victim characteristics, criminal and psychiatric history, and psychiatric opinion. The results indicate that the most salient factors that distinguish between the two groups are factors related to psychiatric opinion (e.g., diagnosis of a psychotic disorder or recommendations psychiatrists make in reports to the court). The article concludes with a discussion of the impact of psychiatric opinion on the determination of criminal insanity and the apparent forensication of legal and mental health systems.

Publication Information

Gulayets, Michael. (2016). “Exploring the Differences Between Successful and Unsuccessful Mental Disorder Defences.” Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice 58(2): 161-193. doi:10.3138/cjccj.2014.E14


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