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Mental State, Intention, and Responsibility

The accused had the mental capacity as indicated by the unremarkable background history. He also had guilty intentions as shown by his sexual orientation.

Mental state, intention, and responsibility: Most jurisdictions require evidence of guilty intention for an offender to be convicted. Psychiatrists are therefore most often asked to provide opinions about whether a psychiatric illness affects the accused’s intent to commit the crime. The underlying principle is that no one should be culpable unless they could control their own behavior and to choose whether to commit an unlawful act. In determining guilt, it is necessary to consider the mental state at the time of the act, and intention (mens rea). This means the person perceives and intends that their actions will produce unlawful consequences. Three other forms of intent need consideration. 1. Recklessness. The deliberate taking of an unjustifiable risk when the consequences can be foreseen but are not avoided. 2. Negligence. Bringing about a consequence which a ‘reasonable’ person would have foreseen and avoided. 3. Accident (or ‘blameless inadvertence,’). The key issue is whether the accused had the mental capacity to form the intention, or whether mental disorder might have affected that capacity. Sometimes it will be beyond psychiatric expertise or evidence to answer this question. Asked to give an opinion on these matters, the psychiatrist should liaise closely with the lawyers.

QID: 20200407125553985

They raised this issue in  1976  with Tarasoff v.  Regents of the University of  California (now known as Tarasoff 1). The California Supreme Court, which deliberated the case for an unprecedented time of about 14 months, ruled that a physician or a psychotherapist who has reason to believe that a patient may injure or kill someone, warning the potential victim.

(Kaplan and Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry, 11th edition, page 1384)

Osman Warning is a warning of a death threat or risk of murder, issued by the British police or authorities to the prospective victim. It comes after Osman's 1998 legal case, which the European Court of Human Rights heard.


Osman Vs. United Kingdom


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