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Call To Change Insanity Defence After Latest Murder Acquittal

Ten days following a public discussion into the issues surrounding the insanity defence and figures showing an increase in insanity acquittals another offender has escaped a murder conviction by reason of insanity.

Geoffrey Tampin appeared in the Auckland High Court on Thursday and was acquitted of the murder of Dean Clark in Balmoral, Auckland in 2012. Tampin was detained as a Special Patient and remanded for treatment at Auckland’s Mason Clinic, a Forensic Mental Health facility. Tampin was under Auckland District Health Board Mental Health Services care at the time of Mr Clarks murder.

Tampin had a 15 year history of medication non-compliance, lethal delusional beliefs and murderous intent.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust has been critical of the insanity defence and believes the current legislation is long overdue for reform.

Graeme Moyle, the Trust’s spokesman on mental health issues is also the brother of Colin Moyle who was murdered in similar circumstances in 2007.

“We’ve endured this archaic system for far too long, it’s overdue for a major overhaul to modernise it and bring it into the 21st century. There will be resistance, but it’s time there was room for victim’s rights to be considered when dealing with mentally ill killers”, Mr Moyle said.

“We have come a long way in recent years in regards to victim’s rights in the Criminal Justice system and there is absolutely no reason why these rights should be abandoned just because an offender is mentally ill”.

“To hear a murderer is not guilty by reason of insanity is abhorrent to the victim’s family, more so when it is acknowledged that there was no doubt the offender was responsible for the crime” Mr Moyle says.

The Law Commission published a report into the insanity defence in 2010 identifying significant flaws yet recommended no change.

“The Luddites that produced this report gave little or no thought to alternative verdicts, victim’s rights and astonishingly even went so far as to recommend the Minister of Health be replaced by a psychiatric tribunal when deciding discharge for Special Patients”, said Moyle.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust believe a verdict of Proven but Insane is a viable alternative to Not Guilty By reason of Insanity and believe the former would address some of victims’ concerns.

“Proven but Insane would apportion some responsibility to the offender and be a more palatable verdict for victims and victims’ families”.

“The current system is 170 years old, tired and ready for reform, this is a real opportunity for New Zealand to lead the world in how we deal with mentally ill offenders and their victims” Mr. Moyle said.


Graeme Moyle
Sensible Sentencing Trust Mental Health Issues Spokesman

Phone 07 8275121
Mobile 0274 941414