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Insanity Acquittals Antiquated

Insanity Acquittals Antiquated

Critics of mental health legislation are championing a change in the way those acquitted of offending due to insanity are dealt with by the Courts.

Auckland man Max McGowan was acquitted of murder on last Thursday and is to be detained as a special patient at the Mason Clinic, a regional Forensic Psychiatric Hospital. McGowan who suffers from schizophrenia stabbed his father in the side of the head and in the abdomen, puncturing his liver and fatally stabbed his mother, June, to death in September 2013.


Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman on mental health issues, Graeme Moyle, says it is time the current legislation governing these offenders is modernised and concerns of victims addressed.

“This legislation was introduced 170 years ago,” Moyle says. ”It’s problematic, open to interpretation and ignores victims”.

“Interestingly the Law Commission agrees. In their 2010 report, Mental Impairment Decision Making and the Insanity Defence, they described the Law as having significant issues, was problematic and victims had no role to play within it., however the Law Commission in its wisdom recommended to the Government that no change in the status quo was required”.

Mr Moyle, whose brother Colin’s murderer was also acquitted due to insanity is incredulous.

“The Law Commission has its head in the sand. They admit the whole defence is shambolic, yet because it’s complex and difficult, they choose to ignore it rather than resolve the issues”.

“A simple solution and a good step forward would be to re-title the defence”, says Moyle, “the current acquittal carries no conviction, an unpalatable situation for victims, however a proposal put forward by the Sensible Sentencing Trust, Proven but Insane, would carry a conviction and with it, some accountability on behalf of the offender”.

“I agree with the Law Commission, the issues associated with these cases are not insignificant, however someone has to make the first move to bring this archaic piece of Law into the 21st century”.

“I challenge all political parties to show the world we will not be shackled to Legislation dating back centuries, and that this country is willing to lead the world with modern and progressive mental health legislation”.


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