If crimes are committed... should people be treated equally?

Discussion in 'Soap Box' started by meaningless-vessel, Jun 18, 2013.

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  1. meaningless-vessel

    meaningless-vessel Well-Known Member

    There's always a lot that can be said for the levels of equality - or the lack of, in multiple situations/scenarios, for whatever reason there is likely to be a potential bias for discrimination.

    However, if someone is known to have a format of mental illness, and break the law, should they not be treated as a criminal would be?

    "Oh no, we can't do that, we could make their mental wellbeing worse"

    There's so much of this 'walking on eggshells' that I find personally is a bit - prejudiced and causes segregation. If anyone is astute enough with the way the laws are in place, they would be covered should it be proven that they weren't in a frame of mind suitable enough to make their decisions. (Refer to The Mental Capacity Act if in UK, or similar laws in your own country).

    After all - everyone who is guilty of breaking the law, is guilty regardless of the state of their health, be it physical or psychological. Would it not be considered a form of discrimination to allow those who are covered by the Mental Capacity Act to effectively 'get away' with their actions where a law-abiding citizen would not?

    An interesting topic - one with a potentially diverse range of answers. But this one I have wondered for a while...

    What makes them 'different' when it comes to breaking the law?
     
  2. Underground

    Underground Well-Known Member

    Mental illness doesn't absolve someone from the actions of their crimes - or their "guilt". At all. There's this common and damaging misconception that people with mental illness "get away" with their crimes, when in actual fact they don't. It takes a lot of evidence to get off a charge / have their charges reduced on the basis of Diminished Responsibility, even if someone is schizophrenic and was psychotic during the murder. It has to be proved that they had no sense of right or wrong, or felt forced or compelled to commit the crime, and no, simply saying "God told me to do it, M'lord" ain't enough. Also being "let off" due to Diminished Responsibility doesn't stop someone being "punished" for their crime - more often than not they are court-ordered sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

    Secondly, I think people need to get rid of this notion that being ordered to serve a sentence in a secure psychiatric hospital is somehow a "lighter" option than prison. Facilities like Broadmoor, which hold patients like the Yorkshire Ripper, have as much security as any Catagory A prison and the regime is no lighter. In fact you arguably have less rights if you're deemed to lack the mental capacity in terms of legal discourse, your fate is more in their hands of psychiatrists and mental health professionals than it is the courts. Also, a prisoner can be transferred to a normal prison (and vice versa) to serve the rest of their sentence after their section is finished.
     
  3. Prinnctopher's Belt

    Prinnctopher's Belt Antiquities Friend SF Supporter

    Google "not guilty by reason of insanity" or "mental disorder defense".

    Some people legitimately do unknowingly commit crimes due to some pervasive mental disorder or condition of insanity. For example, a woman who suffers from dementia and commonly has confusion, may also become kleptomanic and steal items she has no use for and no way to gain from the act; it just happens as a result of her mental illness, and not with criminal intent, and not under the accused's control. That's the difference: whether an individual accused of a crime(s) was aware, understood the consequence, and is mentally competent to even understand cause and result or what is right from wrong. When people are accused of crimes, the intention of the person accused plays a major part in whether they are guilty or not and/or whether and how they should be sentenced if they are found guilty.

    An insanity defense in the United States, for example, almost never results in an acquittal of the crime committed where the accused is proven to have committed it, however mentally incompetent at the time. Usually these convicts (if they were able to go to trial at all since mentally incompetent defendants can't stand trial) will be sentenced to a secure psychiatric facility upon being examined and deemed "mentally incompetent" or "insane" by mental health professionals, ie John Hinckley. The truth is sometimes people truly are "crazy" and have no understanding that what they're doing is wrong at the time of the offense.

    Maybe a lawyer can give you a better explanation with regard to laws and legalese. But socially, we should put ourselves in the position of someone actually unaware that they are committing a crime, and consider the way we'd want to be treated when facing, for example, the death penalty or harsher than necessary sentence or punishment.

    Should the legal system just kill people for being crazy? That's the question you're begging. And that's why the safeguard of competence evaluations are put into place, even though as far as I know, at least one state in the US still puts mentally ill people on death row and kills them.

    I think when it comes to justice, each individual should have a fair trial and be treated according to their circumstance. Contrary to popular ideal, justice is not blind and shouldn't be, in my opinion.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 19, 2013
  4. justMe7

    justMe7 Well-Known Member

    ...context.

    We're not all the same, even if some lovely little guidline sets standards. The term Murder is even in itself just a collectives accepted stance. there are no real reprocussions besides the ones we create or react with. When we create stances, we have to take into account the situations and individuals concerned. We're all different and need to be respected as such otherwise the things we've create to help protect free lives will inadvertantly chain free lives.
    Might be an idea to dwell on context.. and while you're at it, try dwelling on perspective and control....
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 20, 2013
  5. bhawk

    bhawk Well-Known Member

    In deciding someones culpability for a crime there has to be two parts, the mens rea and the actus reus...simply put actus reus is the criminal act. Mens rea is the "guilty mind", the mens rea being the idea someone understood their actions.
    This is a complex part of law which is evolving with every case and new studies.
    If someone is mentally unwell, while they may perform the actus reus, they may not have the mens rea, therefore while they comitted the crime they were not culpable....sort of in the same way as a child...
    To make EVERYONE equal before the law, we would have to prosecute and imprison children for things they do not understand.
    The law, however haphazard is actually very good, flexible in areas it needs to be allowing for evolution while inflexible in others allowing for a degree of certainty for the general populace
     
  6. meaningless-vessel

    meaningless-vessel Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the insight that I overlooked.
     
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