Significant increases in offending by those with mental health issues has seen a rise in acquittals by reason of insanity prompting the Sensible Sentencing Trust to facilitate a public discussion into the associated issues.
Recent data released by the Ministry of Justice under the Official Information Act shows an almost 600% increase in insanity acquittals since 2000. The figures also reveal that charges faced by defendants found not guilty by reason of insanity have increased by 566% during the same period.
Sensible Sentencing Trust Mental Health Issues Spokesman, Graeme Moyle, is concerned by the increase which he believes can be directly attributed to deficiencies within the current mental health system.
“Many of these offenders have been unable to access mental health treatment prior to their offending due to a lack of inpatient beds” said Mr Moyle. “These individuals are left to struggle independently in the community until they can no longer cope. A large majority are non-compliant with medication and abuse drugs and alcohol resulting in a deterioration in their illness”.
“It is ironic that once these offenders enter the justice system, beds within forensic mental health facilities suddenly become available”.
Mr Moyle is also critical of the insanity defence in its current form and is lobbying for changes to the legislation.
“The insanity defence is based on law implemented 170 years ago”, Moyle says. “There have been significant advances in the treatment of the mentally ill in that time, yet the law has remained unchanged”.
The Law Commission in its 2010 report into the insanity defence, identified flaws and significant issues yet recommended no change.
“The Law Commission report highlighted a number of areas of concern but have chosen to ignore these issues and relegated reform to the too hard basket” Moyle says.
“The Sensible Sentencing Trust has a number of proposals designed to bring the insanity defence into the 21st century, the first of which is a proposed change to the not guilty by reason of insanity verdict to one of Proven but Insane. This proposal would also carry a conviction which the current legislation does not allow”.
The Sensible Sentencing Trust will be facilitating an open discussion into this topic at Lecture Theatre LT1 School of Architecture & Design, Te Aro Campus, Vivian Street, Wellington where a panel made up of victims, lawyers and psychiatric experts will discuss a proposed law change.
Sensible Sentencing Trust Mental Health Issues Spokesman
Phone 07 8275121
Mobile 0274 941414