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Mental Impairment and Legal Responsibility

mental impairment and mental incompetenceBid to drop drugs and alcohol as legal defence

Proposed changes to how mental impairment and mental incompetence can be used as a criminal defence are outlined in an article by Sheradyn Holderhead, in The  Advertiser on August 19, 2016

Implementation of the proposal currently before State Parliament would mean that the effects of drugs or alcohol would no longer be relevant in a mental impairment or mental incompetence defence for criminal matters.

 The Law Society of SA president David Caruso has voiced concern over these amendments and is quoted in the article as follows.

“This proposal shuns medical evidence about the relationship between substance use and mental illness.”

“The law as it stands in no way excuses a drug or alcohol- affected person who commits a crime, and to claim otherwise is misleading.”

“Drug-induced psychotic disorder is a recognised medical condition. By ignoring (it) these people will be denied the treatment they need … (and) would expose more people to the grave injustice of being found guilty of a crime where they were not mentally competent to commit the offence.”

He said continuing supervision orders were an unnecessary and backward step.

“The Mental Health Act already provides for community treatment orders, which gives medical professionals the power to give people compulsory medical treatment and to supervise them,” he said.

“Mental illness is a health issue, not a criminal issue, and people with serious mental illnesses who do not have the capacity to understand their actions should not be stigmatised as criminals.’’

We support David Caruso’s opposition to the proposed amendments to severely limit the mental impairment defence available to those suffering mental illness.

This is a complex area and it is important to have the conversation with an experienced lawyer if you believe mental impairment or mental incompetence may be a defence in your matter.

We can help.  Call us on 84519040.

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