LETTER: Is your sanity in question?

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Murder is no longer murder’ according to Brian Daniels in his lengthy letter (Advertiser - February 23) because ‘psychiatrists are testifying that the person accused is insane’.

I would guess that his letter has been circulated to every newspaper, great and small, in the land.

As any lawyer could (and should) tell him, there is a fundamental difference between the defence of ‘insanity’ and that of ‘diminished responsibility’. The plea of ‘insanity’ is very rarely used in UK, perhaps in a handful of cases per year. The defence of ‘diminished responsibility’ is more common, but only as a defence to a murder charge. It can rely on evidence of the accused’s mental condition, but not on testimony that ‘the person accused is insane’.

Mr Daniels’ quotes extensively from the works of the late Professor, Doctor Thomas Szasz: an American psychiatrist who was a vocal critic of the moral and scientific foundations of psychiatry.

People who have come into contact with the mentally ill may well have a very different view on the reality of (say) schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or depression. Evidence of these conditions appears in a variety of criminal cases, not just those of murder; as does evidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, particularly in cases involving ex-servicemen.

Mr Daniels is the executive director of The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CHAR) in the United Kingdom, a branch of a ‘non-profit, non-political, non-religious international mental health watchdog’.

In fact CHAR is a grandly titled but privately established pressure group originating in the USA, where it was ‘co-founded’ in 1969 by the said Professor Szasz, and members of the Church of Scientology.

Alan Atkinson

Buxton