A Melbourne man has been ordered to spend 25 years in a psychiatric hospital after being acquitted of the murder of his parents on the grounds of mental impairment. The family is upset that he did not face trial. However, the court heard expert evidence from three independent psychiatrists, who all agreed that the accused was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and that the psychotic episode was not drug-induced. Section 20 of the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to Be Tried) Act 1997 (Vic) creates a defence to criminal charges where a person “could not reason with a moderate degree of sense and composure about whether the conduct, as perceived by reasonable people, was wrong”.
2 Replies to “Killer to spend 25 years in psychiatric care”
If the psychiatrists found that the psychotic state was drug induced, how would this change the ruling?
The Act does not provide a definition of “mental impairment”, so the meaning of the term is left to the common law.
At paragraph 29 of his judgment, T Forrest J explained: “If the underlying cause of this mental state was a drug-induced psychosis then it will not amount to a disease of the mind or a s 20 mental impairment”.
He based this on precedents that say “a temporary disorder or disturbance of an otherwise healthy mind caused by external factors can [not] properly be regarded as a disease of the mind”.
Therefore, if the judge had found that the psychosis was drug-induced, the accused would have been required to stand trial for murder.
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