‘In a Kind of Mad Way’: A Historical Perspective on Evidence and Proof of Mental Incapacity
University of Sydney - Faculty of Law
November 6, 2011
Melbourne Univiersity Law Review, Forthcoming
Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 11/90
This article examines the evidential and procedural aspects of claims based on mental incapacity in English courtrooms in the ‘long’ eighteenth century. It employs a three-dimensional frame the author has termed ‘manifest madness’ to analyse how such claims were articulated and elaborated at trial in this period. This analysis reveals first, the substantive significance of the accused’s conduct, second, the part played by ordinary people and, third, the role of collective knowledge of madness in evidence and proof of mental incapacity for criminal law purposes. By reference the law on what would now be called unfitness to plead, automatism and intoxication, this article demonstrates the utility of the ‘manifest madness’ frame for understanding the evidential and procedural practices attendant to mental incapacity claims in this period. The article considers the insights this historical analysis provides into current criminal process as it relates to proof of mental incapacity.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 19
Keywords: criminal law, legal history, mental incapacity, evidence and proof
JEL Classification: K10, K14, K30
Date posted: November 7, 2011
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