Alcoholism and Criminal Responsibility

By Kovac, Marina; Palijan, Tija Zarkovic et al. | Alcoholism, July 1, 2006 | Go to article overview
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Alcoholism and Criminal Responsibility


Kovac, Marina, Palijan, Tija Zarkovic, Kovacevic, Drazen, Jurlina, Margareta, Alcoholism


Summary - Who can endanger the security of other people according to the Law concerning the protection of people with mental problems? The question arises if we ourselves contribute to the repeating of criminal deed if we do not pay enough attention to it, considering the understanding of its psychopathology and treatment planning.

This paper describes a patient suffering from alcoholism with mental, somatic and social complications. The reason for choosing this case was its educational value, due to the repetition of criminal deed of murder with complicated psychodynamic explanation. In the evening hours, in the yard building where they had previously met and made love, after a short argument and the refusal of sex, perpetrator grabbed the victim from behind and squeezed her neck until she fell on the floor. After that, he went to an acquaintance of his, where he burned her money and her documents at the haystack and then, went home to have some sleep. In the evening hours, 13 years before that, he struck the neighbour of his with whom he had been emotionally involved with a plank, after she had declined his proposition of sex. He had taken her to the yard building, raped her and then put the old paper and other garbage over her and set fire to her. Afterwards, he went home to sleep. He awoke the same night to respond to the sound of fire alarm and went to help put out the fire, because he had been a member of the amateur fire brigade.

The patient has committed two criminal deeds of murder, which share the main characteristics: alcoholism, murder of female person who had rejected hum, time and place of the deed, setting fire as an expression of destructiveness, i.e. desire to completely destroy the object of hatred. In both cases, there is a low level of alcohol intoxication present, as well as the "total recall" and going home to sleep after the murder has been committed.

In the analysis of the cases, the need arises to provide a psychodynamic explanation, because otherwise the deed remains "strange". The client is characterized with an ambivalent attitude towards the opposite sex. He sees the rejection by the person he "loves" as a severe narcissistic insult and reacts with an outburst of aggressiveness. In the incriminated deeds, he repeats the auto-destructive and destructive urges as the only response mechanism he knows, with the features of a ritual. He destroys "everything around him" and the alcoholism represents a constellation factor, which de-blocks already weakened control and self-control. (Alcoholism 2006; 42:69-77)

Key words: Alcoholism; Criminal deed; Accountability; Treatment

INTRODUCTION

Motivated with the case of repeated severe criminal deed of murder, with cases showing similar main features, we describe the case of a patient suffering from alcoholism, with mental, somatic and social complications. The reason for choosing this case was its educational value, due to the repetition of criminal deed of murder with complicated psychodynamic explanation. Through the description of the case, the question arises if we ourselves contribute to the repeating of criminal deed if we do not pay enough attention to it, considering the understanding of its psychopathology and treatment planning.

The main question that arises is: "Who can endanger the security of other people according to the Law concerning the protection of people with mental problems (Zakon o zastiti osoba s dusevnim smetnjama - ZZODS)" According to ZZODS, article 44, a person who was unaccountable at the time of criminal deed will not be released, but the compulsory detention in psychiatric institution will be commanded.1

There is no doubt that consumption of alcohol and alcoholism contributes to the incidence of criminal deeds and increase of violence.2,3 In numerous studies, it has been proved that alcohol leads towards the release of aggressive impulses, crossing over the border of violence and increase of aggression, especially if the person has been set off with something.

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