Categories of Insanity: There are five different ways in which a person mental condition may affect his responsibility for his conduct. Firstly, he may perform a prohibited act in a state of impaired consciousness due to some mental condition or internal cause. In such a condition his act is involuntary and he is referred to as an automaton.
Secondly, he may be conscious and perform willed bodily movements which constitute the actus reus of an offence but due to his mental condition he may not know or understand what he is doing.
Thirdly, he may be conscious and able to comprehend what he is doing but due to his mental condition be unaware that it is wrong.
Fourthly, he may know what he is doing and that it is wrong but due to his mental condition he may not be able to control what he is doing.
Fifthly, he may know what he is doing and that it is wrong but due to his mental delusional state he may believe that his act is appropriate. The above conditions of insanity shall now be narrowed into 3 categories.
Disease of the Mind
Disease of the mind can be said to be any disease which produces malfunctioning of the mind. Arteriosclerosis, a tumor on the brain, epilepsy, diabetes, all physical produce the relevant malfunction. A malfunctioning of the mind is not a disease of the mind when it is caused by some external factor, for example, a blow on the head causing concussion, the consumption of alcohol or drugs or the administration of an anesthetic. In R.V. KEMP the defendant was charged with causing grievous bodily harm to his wife. He suffered from
Arteriosclerosis which had not given rise to general mental trouble but caused temporary loss of consciousness during which state the attack was made. It was conceded that the accused did not know the nature and quality of his act and that he suffered from a defect of reason.
It was argued that if a physical disease caused the brain cells to degenerate then it would be a disease of the mind but until it did so, it was said, this temporary interference with the working of the brain was like a concussion of something of that nature and not a disease of the mind. Delving, J. rejecting the argument held thus:-
“The law is not concerned with the brain but with the mind, in the sense that ‘and’ is ordinarily used, the mental faculties of reason, memory and, understanding.
If one reads for ‘disease of the mind’ ‘disease of the brain’ it’ would follow that in many cases please of insanity would not be established because it could not be proved that the brain has been affected in any way, either by degeneration of the cells or in any other way. In my judgment, the condition of the brain is irrelevant and so is the question of whether the condition of the mind is curable or incurable, transitory or permanent.”
Lord Denning in BRATTY V.A.G FOR NORTHERN IRELAND put forward his own view of the disease of the mind. He opined that any mental disorder which has manifested itself in violence and is prone to reoccur is a disease of the mind. At any rate it is the sort of disease for which a person should be detained in hospital, rather than be given an unqualified acquittal.
Where on a criminal charge, it appears that, at the time of the act or omission giving rise to offence alleged, the accused was laboring under a defect of reason owning to a disease of the mind so as not to know the nature a quality of his act, or if he knew this, so as not to know that what he was doing was wrong, he is not regarded in law as responsible for his act.
Uncontrollable Impulse in Insanity
One of the major criticisms of the M’Naghten rule is that there is no provision in them recognizing the uncontrollable impulse. In practice, it is always difficult to distinguish between uncontrollable impulse resulting from a disease of the mind and one which is as a result of ordinary passion, which the law should not countenance.
Insanity affects not only the intellectual faculties but also the whole personality of the insane person including the will and the emotions. The criminal code recognizes the defense of uncontrollable impulse in appropriate cases as provided in section 28 of the code which states that a person is not criminally responsible for an act or omission he is in such a state of mental disease or natural mental infirmity as to deprive him… of capacity to control his action.
In the case of ECHEM V. THE STATE , the accused who was charged with murder put up a defense of insanity resulting from an injury which he had earlier sustained. The
doctor who gave evidence certified that the injury sustained by the accused was likely to have affected his brain in a way that whenever the accused had attacks of mental disorder, he was unable to control his acts to such a degree as to amount to uncontrollable impulse.
The doctor added that the accused might have known what he was doing was wrong but that he was not able to control his actions when he had an attack. The accused was found legally insane. However, the defense of uncontrollable impulse is not provided for under the penal code, therefore, uncontrollable impulse will not be a defense under the penal code.