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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Specific Crimes ,Violent Offences

Specific Crimes
Violent Offences

The Offence
· offence type does not accurately predict future offence category
· about 15 % of sexual offences are re-convicted, but re-conviction is just as
likely to be a non-sexual offence
Degree of violence
· degree increases with:
· low IQ
· mental illness
· intoxication
· low victim resistance
· family killings
· multiple killings
· when women killed
Quality of violence
· better indication of mental illness than quantity
· bizarre quality equates with mental illness or severe personality disorder
Disinhibiting factors
1. alcohol and drugs
· 86 % of victims assaulted are intoxicated at time of injury
· 63 % of offenders are intoxicated at time of offence
· 60 % of murderers have drunk alcohol prior to their offence
2. companions and groups
· e.g. football match
3. stress and fatigue
4. blood sugar
Criminal record
· the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour
1. predictors of repetition for dangerous offences include:
a) a juvenile record
b) number of previous offences
c) convictions for violence
i) one previous violent offence predicts 14 % chance of reconviction
ii) four previous violent offence predicts 60 % chance of reconviction
iii) the exception is over-controlled murder, where a ‘mildmannered’
person is ‘pushed over the edge’
d) severity of last offence
Personal data
1. Sex
· women less likely to seek violent solutions
· but when women do become violent, they can display the same level of
· the most common offence committed by women is stealing
2. Age
· high rates of offending in youths
· sex crimes may decline with increasing age if offence is linked to orgasm
· exhibitionism may persist to later age
3. Marital status
· persistent failure to achieve sexual relationship and one or more violent
assaults on a woman is ominous
· of adult female victims of murder, 40 % were killed by their husband
4. Social circumstances
· association between homelessness and violence
· two broad types:
· over-controlled - feelings inhibited
· under-controlled - easily exhibits feelings and resorts to violence
· Helman’s triangle (in childhood) is a good predictor of future violence:
1. bedwetting
2. firesetting
3. cruelty to animals
· paranoid / suspicious
· suspicious is more likely to resort to verbal or physical aggression
Family and personal history
· violent behaviour is associated with:
· childhood deprivation
· poor parent / child relationships
· childhood beatings
· alcoholic fathers
· dominant mother
· isolation from peers
· deep hostility to authority
· childhood physical abuse is associated with:
· marital conflict and violence
· single parent families
· low socio-economic status
Past psychiatric history
· schizophrenia (esp. paranoid) is most likely diagnostic group to commit crimes of
· mentally ill are more likely to be assaultative, and risk is increased if:
· male
· young
· low socio-economic status
· substance abusing
· rates of violent offending:
· schizophrenia = 5 in 10,000
· affective psychoses = 6 in 100,000
Predictors of repetition
1. History:
a) one or more previous episodes of violence
b) repeated impulsive behaviour
c) evidence of difficulty in coping with stress
d) previous unwillingness to delay gratification
e) sadistic or paranoid traits
2. The offence:
a) bizarre violence
b) lack of provocation
c) lack of remorse
d) continuing major denial
e) severity of violence
3. Mental State:
a) morbid jealousy
b) paranoid beliefs plus a wish to harm others
c) sadistic fantasy life
d) deceptiveness
e) lack of self control
f) threats to repeat violence
g) attitude to treatment/ lack of insight or willingness to comply
4. Circumstances:
a) provocation or precipitant is likely to reoccur
b) alcohol or drug abuse
c) social difficulties and lack of support
· peak age = 10-18
· majority offend once and are not re-convicted
· in middle-aged women, depression is present in up to 30%
· associated with:
· phobic anxiety states
· chronically stressed
· personality disorder, in association with low mood
· chronic physical illness
· organic states
· M:F = 1:2.5
· more common in:
· subnormality
· alcoholism
· recurrence more likely if:
· multiple attempts
· psychotic
· demented
· mentally retarded
· alcoholic
· sexual excitement derived from the act
· usually due to:
· personality disorder
· paranoid illnesses
Juvenile delinquency
· is law breaking behaviour by 10- to 20-year-olds
· associated with:
· unsatisfactory child rearing
· low IQ
· conduct disorder in childhood
· parental criminality
· large family size
· refers to the recurrent failure to resist irresistible impulses to steal objects not
needed for personal use nor for their monetary value
· it is classified under ICD-10 F63 ‘Habit and impulse disorders’
· it is rare – with less than 5% of shoplifters giving a history consistent with
· the average age of onset is 20 years
· the diagnosis is usually made 1-2 decades after the average age of onset
· stealing is impulsive, and done without the assistance of others


· if a person has no control over an act, he cannot be held responsible for it – the
concept is similar to being ‘briefly insane’
· it is a legal term, and has no connection with epileptic automatisms
· verdicts of not guilty have been returned when acts of violence were judged to have
been committed as ‘sane automatisms’
· sane automatism:
· leads to a full acquittal
· seen to be due to an ‘external cause’
· includes:
· absent-mindednesss (in association with depression)
· insane automatism:
· automatism thought to arise from a ‘disease of the mind’ – the appropriate
defence is then insanity and the McNaghten rules apply
· are due to an ‘internal cause’ because the conditions may reoccur
· includes:
· epileptic automatism
· hypoglycaemia, hyperglycaemia
· sleep-walking
· arteriosclerosis
· in the absence of organic disease, the presence of amnesia is unlikely to carry any
legal implications


· involuntary intoxication (as when someone unwittingly takes a drink to which a
drug has been added) or automatism occurring as a side-effect to medical treatment,
constitutes a valid defence
· self-induced intoxication is not a defence unless:
1. it is itself evidence of ‘disease of the mind’ under the McNaghten rules or
2. it is evidence of lack of intent in relation to those crimes for which ‘specific
intent’ must be proved (e.g. murder, theft, and burglary)
· intoxication has been accepted as a reason for diminished responsibility (Dingwall
1857) and for reducing murder charge to culpable homicide

Psychiatric defences

Psychiatric defences
· a defence can be made that the person is not culpable because he did not have a
sufficient degree of mens rea due to:
1. not guilty by reason of insanity
2. diminished responsibility (not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter,
which requires a lesser degree of criminal intent
3. incapacity to form an intent because of an automatism
4. if a mother kills her child in the first year of life, she is not usually held
legally responsible for murder, but for the lesser charge of infanticide
Not guilty by reason of insanity
· embodied in the McNaghten rules (in 1842 Daniel McNaghten, a wood turner from
Glasgow, shot and killed Edward Drummond, private secretary to the Prime
Minister, Sir Robert Peel)
· To establish a defence on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved
that, at the time of committing the act, the party accused was labouring
under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the
nature and quality of the act he was doing, or, if he did know it, that he did
not know what he was doing was wrong
· the McNaghten rules due not apply in Scotland
· the burden of proof lies with the defence
· based on the opinions on 2 psychiatrists ‘on the balance of probability’
· it counts as an acquittal, but the disposal is as Insanity in bar of trial
Diminished responsibility
· the defence of diminished responsibility for murder was introduced in 1957
· the Homicide Act 1957 (Section 2) states:
· where a person kills or is party to a killing of another, he shall not be
convicted of murder if he was suffering from such abnormality of mind
(whether arising from a condition of arrested or retarded development of
mind or any inherent causes or induced by disease or injury) as substantially
impaired his mental responsibility for his acts and omissions in doing or
being party to the killing
· if the plea is acceptable to the judge and prosecution, there is no trial but a hearing
and a sentence of manslaughter (culpable homicide) is passed
· it refers only to sentencing, not responsibility for the act in terms of guilt
· “degrees of mental illness produce degrees of culpability”
· personality disorder is not sufficient in Scottish Law
Culpable homicide
· there is a lack of specific or evil intent to kill
· Involuntary culpable homicide – an unintended death occurs as a result of an
assault or other criminal act or as a result of culpable negligence
· Voluntary culpable homicide – death results from an intentional reckless act but
because of provocation or diminished responsibility, the offence is reduced from
murder to culpable homicide

Criminal responsibility ,Homicide

Criminal responsibility
· in England and Wales, it starts at the age of 10 - children under 10 are excluded
because they are deemed incapable of criminal intent
· in Scotland, it begins at the age of 8
· children between 10 and 14 do not have mens rea unless it can be proved otherwise
– this is termed Dolci incapax and means that criminal responsibility is partial
· after the age of 14, an individual is legally responsible for their actions unless caused
· a mistake
· an accident
· duress
· necessity
· mental disorder
· in England and Wales, it may be:
· lawful and justifiable (e.g. killing on behalf of the state)
· lawful and excusable
· unlawful – this is ‘the unlawful killing of any reasonable creature in being and
under the Queen’s peace, the death following within a year and a day’
· causing death by dangerous driving
Insanity in bar of trial
Fitness to plead
· English law requires that the defendant must be in a fit condition to defend himself
· the issue can only be decided by a jury
· if the accused is found unfit to plead and the charge is murder, an order is made
committing him to any hospital specified by the Home Secretary where he may be
detained without limit of time and can be discharged only at the discretion of the
Home Secretary
· in determining fitness to plead, it is necessary to determine how far the defendant
1. understand the nature of the charge
2. understand the difference between pleading guilty and not guilty
3. instruct counsel
4. challenge jurors
5. examine a witness
6. follow the proceedings in court
Disposal of those deemed insane in bar of trial
· three stage process:
1. Determine whether or not insane in bar of trial (evidence from two doctors, one
2. Examination of facts:
· as near as possible to an ordinary trial, but held in the presence of a sheriff or
judge alone
· if not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt, then acquitted
· if satisfied, then disposal
3. Disposal of insanity cases:
· hospital order +/- restrictions
· guardianship order
· new supervision and treatment order
· discharge with no order
· for murder, there is mandatory hospital and restriction orders

Psychiatric issues in the assessment of offenders

Psychiatric issues in the assessment of offenders
Fitness to be interviewed
· factors to be considered include:
1. Does the detainee understand the police caution after it has been explained to
him or her?
2. Is the detainee fully oriented in time, place, and person and does he or she
recognize the key persons present during the police interview?
3. Is the detainee likely to give answers that can be seriously misconstrued by the
court? i.e. are they able to understand the consequences of their answers
The appropriate adult
· used when the detainee if found fit to be interviewed, but does have a mental illness
or learning disability
· an appropriate adult is:
1. a relative, guardian, or other person responsible for the care or custody of the
subject, or
2. someone with experience in dealing with mentally ill or handicapped people, or
3. some other responsible person who is not a police officer or someone who is
employed by the police
Mental state at the time of the offence
· before anyone can be convicted of a crime, the prosecution must prove the
1. he carried out an unlawful act (actus reus)
2. he had at the time the state of mind necessary to commit a crime (mens rea)
· traffic offences only require actus reus
· the categories of mens rea (loosely translated as meaning a ‘guilty mind’) are:
1. Intent - the person perceives and intends that his act of omission will
produce unlawful consequences
2. Recklessness - ‘is the deliberate taking of an unjustifiable risk’. A man is
reckless with respect to the consequences of his act, when he foresees it may
occur but does not desire it (e.g. pulling the trigger of a gun that you do not
know whether it is loaded or not)
3. Negligence - ‘a man acts negligently when he brings about a consequence
which a reasonable and prudent man would have foreseen and avoided’
(Smith & Hogan 1988)
4. Blameless inadvertence - ‘a man may reasonably fail to foresee the
consequence of his act, as when a slight slap causes the death of an
apparently healthy person: or reasonably fail to consider the possibility of
the existence of a circumstance, as when goods, which are in fact stolen, are
bought in the normal course of business from a trader of high repute’ (Smith
& Hogan 1988)

Depression ,Bipolar Illness,Schizophrenia,Dementia

· severe illness may lead to homicide
· the depressed person is usually acting on delusions
· family member is usually the victim in altruistic homicides
· the killer often commits suicide afterwards
· sometimes associated with shoplifting
Bipolar Illness
· offending is more common than in depression
· manic patients may spend excessively, hire cars and fail to return them, or steal cars
· may be charged with fraud or false pretences
· prone to irritability and aggression, though any resulting violence is seldom severe
· more likely to commit non-violent as well as violent crimes
· minor offences more likely than serious offences
· most criminal behaviour followed the onset of schizophrenia, although crime is
frequently a result of personality difficulties and social incompetence
· risk of homicide is moderately increased in schizophrenia compared to the general
· violence in schizophrenics may be associated with any of:
· great fear and loss of self control associated with non-systematized
· systematized paranoid delusions of persecution
· irresistible urges
· instructions from hallucinatory voices
· unaccountable frenzy
· risk of violence is greatest where delusions are accompanied by strong affect, and
when the person has made efforts to try to confirm the truth of the delusions
· 44% are mildly aggressive
· 10% severely aggressive
· association between offending and dyspraxia
Episodic dyscontrol syndrome (Bach-y-Rita et al. 1971)
· repeated unprovoked episodes of violence
· excluded epilepsy, schizophrenia, pathological intoxication, drug intoxication
· unexplained violence preceded by a sequence of aura, headache, and drowsiness
· 50 % reported amnesia for the episode
· 50 % have EEG abnormalities, usually in the temporal lobes

Specific mental disorders and crime

Specific mental disorders and crime
Psychopathic disorder
· in the Mental Health Act 1983 of England and Wales, the term psychopathic
disorder is employed and defined as a ‘persistent disorder or disability of mind
(whether or not including significant impairment of intelligence), which results in
abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct’
· if a compulsory order is to be made on the grounds of psychopathy, then the Act
requires there to be evidence that treatment ‘is likely to alleviate or prevent a
deterioration of (the patient’s) condition’ as well as the requirement ‘that it is
necessary for the health and safety of the patient, or the protection of other persons’
· there is an increased likelihood of other psychiatric symptoms and disorders
· homicide risk is increased 10x in someone with an antisocial personality disorder
Alcohol dependence
· alcohol and crime are related in 3 important ways:
1. alcohol intoxication may lead to charges related to public drunkenness or to
driving offences
2. intoxication reduces inhibitions and is strongly associated with crimes of
violence, including murder
3. the neuropsychiatric complications of alcoholism may also be linked with
Drug dependence
· offences against property are associated with the need to pay for drugs
· rates of drug abuse are increased among prisoners
Mental retardation
· about 1 % of the prison population are mentally retarded
· most offences committed by those in the borderline to mild ranges of learning
· the mentally retarded are more likely to be caught
· they may commit offences because they do not understand the implications of their
behaviour, or they are susceptible to exploitation by others
· the closest association between mental retardation and crime is a high incidence of
sexual offences, especially indecent exposure by males
· the exposer is often known to the victim
· there is also said to be an association between MR and arson
· other associations:
· low socioeconomic status
· family history of criminality
· social disadvantage
· cerebral abnormality
· history of behavioural disorder as a child
· minor physical abnormality
· gullibility
· lack of self control

Forensic aspects of psychiatry

Forensic aspects of psychiatry
Associations between psychiatric disorders and crime
Possible relationships between crime and mental disorder
1. coincidence
2. correlation
3. cause
· among male sentenced prisoners in England and Wales
· 37 % have diagnosable disorder
· 0.6 % have mental retardation
· 2 % have psychosis
· 6 % neurotic disorder
· 10 % personality disorder
· 12 % alcohol dependence
· 12 % drug dependence
· convicted prisoners:
· 5.2% major psychological disorder (Cooke 1994)
· remand prisoners:
· 2.3% major psychiatric disorder (Davidson et al. 1995)
· 14.1% depression
· 10.8% anxiety and agitation
· 22.4% alcohol problem
· 70% had abused drugs
· the disorders most likely to be associated with crime are:
· personality disorders
· alcohol and drug dependence
· mental retardation
State Hospital admission
· factors precipitating admission:
· alcohol or drug intoxication 21.2%
· non-compliance with medication and relapse 11.2%
· psychosis 54.8%
· ‘normal’ aggression 15.4%
Important studies
1. Hafner & Boker, 1982
· all homicides and attempted homicides in West Germany 1955-64
· mental disorder was associated with 5% of these
· the rate of mental disorder in the community was 3-5%
· homicidal violence rateschizophrenia = 5/10,000
· schizophrenics were 100x more likely to commit suicide than
· homicidal violence rateaffective disorder = 6/100,000
· affective disorders were 1000x more likely to commit suicide than
2. Swanson et al. 1990 ‘Violence and psychiatric disorder in the community:
evidence from the epidemiological catchment area survey’
· violence in last 12 months:
· non-substance use schizophrenia 8.3%
· substance abuse 21%
· substance abuse schizophrenia 30%
· active psychotic symptoms are associated with an increased risk of violence
Patterns of offending
· peak age of offending is:
· 14 in girls; there is another peak around the menopause
· 17-18 in boys
· 50% of all indictable crimes are committed by people under the age of 21
· the sex ratio of convicted men to women is approximately 5:1
· by the age of 30, around 30% of men have been convicted of an indictable offence