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JULY 17: WORLD DAY FOR INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE THE M’ NAGHTEN RULE

Nukshijungla Ao
Asst Professor
College of Nursing, CIHSR

 

Case Scenario: It was during a cold winter night, when Mr. X heard his door being knocked several times. He had just opened the door when an unidentified man suddenly struck him on his head. He could find no reason why he was being attacked. Was it for robbery? Was it for an old revenge? Thoughts just ran in his mind when eventually he collapsed. He later woke up in a hospital. He was informed that the stranger who attacked him was held under police custody. On further inquiry, the accused was a known case of psychiatric disorder, ‘Schizophrenia’ for the past 5 years and currently he was off medication for past 1 month. And it was during these days that he became critically ill and committed this act.

 

So, what should Mr. X do in this case? Do nothing? File a case against the accused? Or a different intervention be adopted?

 

World Day for International Justice also referred to as Day of International Criminal Justice is an international day celebrated each year across the globe on July 17 as part of an effort to recognize the emerging system of international criminal justice.

 

People around the world use this day to host events to promote international criminal justice. Today I would like to join the nation, having the background as a Psychiatric nurse, in creating awareness and promoting a rule or a law known as ‘The M’Naghten’s Rule’ formulated from one of the most popular cases in Psychiatry, THE M’ NAGHTEN’S CASE.

 

The M’Naghten rule on criminal insanity is named for Daniel M’Naghten, who, in 1843, tried to kill England’s Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel. M’Naghten thought Peel wanted to kill him, so he tried to shoot Peel but instead shot and killed Peel’s secretary, Edward Drummond. Medical experts testified that M’Naghten was psychotic, and M’Naghten was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

 

The M’Naghten rule is a test for criminal insanity. Under the M’Naghten rule, a criminal defendant is not guilty by reason of insanity if, at the time of the alleged criminal act, the defendant was so deranged that he did not know the nature or quality of his actions or, if he knew the nature and quality of his actions, he was so deranged that he did not know what wrong he had done.

 

The aim of the M’Naghten rule was to limit the Insanity Defense to cognitive insanity, a basic inability to distinguish right from wrong.

 

My prime concern here is to sensitize the public on this issue that a known mentally ill patient (after being thoroughly assessed by a psychiatric health team) is protected by the M’Naghten rule. However this rule is not being enhanced and psychiatric patients instead of channelizing them to the right medical treatment they are being abused, taken advantage of, or even beaten to death unaware of the insanity of their mind at the time of the crime committed. The mentally ill patients are at the mercy of the public as they can never realize the magnitude of harm they have done unless they are being treated and gain full insight of their health.

 

There could be both sides of the coin. Mentally ill patients can be identified and treated or actual criminals can take this advantage and mask themselves under this law. However, the Psychiatric health care team is so equipped and has experts to truly identify and recognize whether the person is actually mentally ill or not.

 

The earlier mentioned case scenario is now being answered where, Mr. X’s case is not permitted or eligible to file the case, as the accused is protected by the law, instead channelize the accused or ‘mentally ill patient’ to be referred to a nearest health care facility for treatment or at least educate the relatives to take him to higher centers for evaluation, as his illness will continue to be a threat to others in the society as well as a threat to his life.

 

This is my appeal to the public that sensitivity toward these vulnerable groups be made and kindly refer them to health care centers for further treatment and evaluation.

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