Fit for Trial
The law relating to criminal insanity was reformed in 2006. The Central Mental Hospital was designated as a centre for the reception, detention, care and maintenance of persons admitted or transferred there under the legislation. A psychiatric centre may also be a Designated Centre for the purposes of the legislation.
The legislation on insanity applies where in the course of the trial either the defence prosecution or court raises the issue. A person is deemed unfit for trial if he is unable by reason of mental disorder to understand the nature or course of the proceedings so as to instruct legal advisors, plead to the charge, choose for trial summarily or on indictment (with a jury) make a proper defence, challenge a juror or understand the evidence.
The court decides the issue as to whether the person is fit to be tried. The court may request evidence of an approved medical officer which may be given for the purpose of determining the matter.
Commital Because Unfit
If the court decides that the person is unfit to be tried, it shall adjourn the proceedings and may if it is satisfied on the evidence of an approved medical officer or other evidence that the person is in need of inpatient care or treatment in a Designated Centre, so commit him until an order is made below.
Where it has satisfied having considered the evidence of the medical officer or other evidence that the person is suffering from a mental disorder and is in need of outpatient care or treatment. It may make such order as it sees fit in relation to outpatient treatment in a Designated Centre.
A court may seek evidence of a medical officer for the purpose of determining whether to adjourn proceedings with a view to a further order to facilitate the accused in accessing any care or treatment necessary for his welfare making a determination as to whether he is fit for trial or exercising other powers.
Determination of Commital
In deciding whether to exercise the power to commit a person to a Designated Centre or for treatment, the court may commit the person to a centre for a period of more than 14 days order that they attend an outpatient centre and direct the accused be examined by an approved medical officer.
The approved medical officer is to report to the court on whether in his opinion the accused is suffering from a mental disorder and is in need of inpatient or outpatient care or treatment.
Where the issue arises during a trial and the court considers it is expedient in the interest of the accused to do so, it may defer consideration of the question until any time before the opening of the case for the defence.
Upon a determination being made that the accused is unfit to be tried, the court may on an application made, allow evidence to be adduced as to whether the person did the alleged act and if the court is satisfied there is a reasonable doubt as to whether he did the act, it shall order the accused to be discharged.
Where the court decides not to order the person to be released, no report shall be published on the evidence or decision until such time as the trial concludes or a decision is made whether or not to proceed with the trial or the trials.
Not Guilty but Insane
Where an accused person is tried for an offence in the District Court or Special Criminal Court or in a case where the jury finds that he committed the act and having heard the evidence relating to the mental condition of the accused given by the consultant psychiatrist finds
- the accused who is suffering from a mental disorder and
- the mental disorder was such as that the accused ought not to be held responsible for the act alleged by reason of the fact that he or she
- did not know the nature and quality of the act or
- did not know what he was doing was wrong or
- was unable to refrain from committing the act
the court or jury shall return a special verdict to the effect that the accused is found not guilty by reasons of insanity.
If the court has considered a report submitted to it, is satisfied that an accused person not guilty by reason of insanity is suffering from a mental disorder and is in need of inpatient care or treatment in a Designated Centre, it shall commit that person to the specified Designated Centre until an order is made under the below provisions.
The Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2010 amends the principal 2006 legislation. Its purpose is to provide for better compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to the procedure for dealing with persons who may be unfit to be tried.
It also makes better provision for the Mental Health Criminal Law Review Board to make orders for conditional or unconditional discharge of patients who are detained by order of a court in a designated area having being found unfit to be tried or found not guilty by reason of insanity. The Central Mental Hospital remains the only designated centre.
The amendments allow a court where a question arises as to an accused person’s fitness to be tried, to request evidence of an approved medical officer for the purpose of determining either to adjourn proceedings to facilitate the accused in accessing necessary care or treatment, making a determination as to whether or not the accused is fit to be tried or exercising the power to commit an accused person to a designated centre for examination.
Persons may be committed to a designated centre for a period not exceeding 14 days. When the court has found a person unfit to be tried it must commit the person for examination before committing him to a designated centre for inpatient care or treatment or order that he receives outpatient treatment at the designated centre.
Commital to Care
Where a person not guilty by reason of insanity is suffering from a mental disorder and may be in need of inpatient care or treatment in a Designated Centre, it may commit the person to a specified Designated Centre for a period of not more than 14 days and direct that during such period he or she may be examined by an approved medical officer. The court may on an application made if it considers it appropriate after consultation with the approved medical officer, extend the period of committal for periods up to a total of six months.
Within the period authorised by the court, the approved medical officer is to report as to whether in his opinion the person is suffering from a mental disorder and is in need of inpatient care or treatment in a Designated Centre.
In a trial for murder where the accused alleges that he was suffering from a mental disorder such that he ought to be found not guilty by reason of insanity or suffering from a mental disorder specified below, the court must allow the prosecution to adduce evidence pretending to prove on or other of these contentions and may give directions as to the stage of the proceedings at which the prosecution may adduce evidence.
Where a person is tried for murder and the jury or Special Criminal Court finds that he did the act but was at the time suffering from mental disorder and it is such not to justify finding him or her guilty by reason of insanity, but will such as to diminish substantially has responsibility for the act, the jury may find the person not guilty of that offence but guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. Where a person is tried for the above offence, it is for the defence to prove that the person is not liable by reason of diminished responsibility.
Appeal Against Determination
There is an appeal to the Circuit Court from a determination of the District Court that a person is unfit for trial. There is an appeal to the Court Appeal from a direction by the Central Criminal Court, Special Criminal Court or Circuit Court that the person is unfit for trial.
A person tried for an offence in the District Court and found not guilty by reason of insanity may appeal the finding to the circuit court on the grounds
that it was not proved that he or she did the act in question
that he or she was not at the time suffering from a mental disorder of the above type (not knowing nature and quality of act).
that the District Court ought to have made a determination that he was unfit to be tried.
If on the appeal, the court is satisfied that it was not established that the appellant had committed the act, it shall order the appellant to be acquitted if it is satisfied that he committed the act but having considered the evidence relating to mental condition given by a consultant psychiatrist, is satisfied that he was not suffering from a mental disorder, it shall substitute a verdict of guilty and shall have the same powers of punishment as the District Court would have had.
If it is found that the person ought to have been found unfit to be tried, it shall make such finding and the above provisions will apply. If it determines that the offence was committed and the person concerned was suffering from a mental disorder of the above type and but for that, he would have been found guilty, the court shall dismiss the appeal.
Similar equivalent provisions apply in respect of appeals from the Circuit Court, the Central Criminal Court and the Special Criminal Court to the Court of Appeal.