By Al Sevcik
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Extra resources for A Matter of Magnitude
Period 1975 to 1989 there was a total of 52 successful insanity defences in England and Wales. The greatest number of special verdicts in any single year was six in 1975, 1976 and 1986 respectively, while the smallest number was a single insanity defence in 1982. (1991a: 16) Although the insanity defence is open in cases other than homicide, it is comparatively rarely used. Out of Mackay’s fifty-two cases, only about a third were for homicide. About 46 per cent were for other forms of serious assault.
At the other end of the scale, substantial does not 28 Legal and administrative frameworks mean trivial or minimal’ (R. v. Lloyd, 1967). In order to illustrate further some of the problems that have been already alluded to, I now use the cases of Sutcliffe, Nilsen, Telling and, more recently, Dahmer. Example 1: Peter Sutcliffe The case of Peter Sutcliffe attracted such notoriety that some of the key issues concerning the diminishment or otherwise of his ‘mental responsibility for his acts’ have tended to be overshadowed by the horrendous nature of his crimes and the furore surrounding the circumstances of his detection and eventual arrest (see, for example, Prins, 1983; Burn, 1984).
The jury had convicted him of murder by a majority verdict of 10–2 on all but one of the counts against him. In the latter case they reached a unanimous verdict. In arguing for a manslaughter verdict Nilsen’s counsel had tried to convince the jury that ‘anybody guilty of such horrific acts must be out of his mind’ (The Times, 5 November 1983). In Nilsen’s case, unlike Sutcliffe’s, there had been no unanimous prior agreement by the psychiatrists, nor was Nilsen’s alleged mental disorder as floridly psychotic or akin to the layperson’s notion of madness as was Sutcliffe’s.
A Matter of Magnitude by Al Sevcik