Academic journal article Nottingham Law Journal

The Role of the Jury in Relation to Claims of Insanity

Academic journal article Nottingham Law Journal

The Role of the Jury in Relation to Claims of Insanity

Article excerpt

R v. Oye (1)

[2014] 1 Cr App R 11 (Lord Justice Davis)


People suffering from mental delusions will invariably run the perpetual risk of acting irrationally in their daily encounters. Common sense would therefore suggest that such people should not be punished for their crimes due to their impaired mental capacities. However, the recent decision of R v Dye, while in itself decided correctly, exposes cracks in the insanity defence which may not be resolved in the absence of wholesale reform. The appellate history of Dye shows that the deficiencies in the insanity defence may well lead to verdicts which appear inconsistent with the most intuitive outcomes. In this regard, the current practice of leaving the insanity defence as a question of law for the jury increases the likelihood that defendants will be convicted on arbitrary bases, for extraneous or improper reasons.

While the Dye decision has attracted critical comment in academic circles, the discussion has largely centred on the issue of self-defence, (2) with little attention being paid to how insanity was dealt with at first instance. This case note seeks to add to the debate by explaining why, in light of Dye, the jury should have no role to play in cases involving insanity. Rather, it is argued that the judge's determination on the medical evidence supplied should be viewed as decisive. While a more principled approach should be taken vis-a-vis the admissibility of characteristics in self-defence, insanity should be the only appropriate defence for defendants suffering from mental delusions.

Set out below is a brief summary of the facts; an analysis of the appellate history and the reasoning of the Court of Appeal; and commentary on (i) the scope of self-defence and the insanity defence, and (ii) the reasons for removing the jury in cases involving insanity.


The defendant ('D') was found hiding in a void in the ceiling of a coffee shop in the Westfield Shopping Centre. After the manager had been called to the scene, the police entered and asked D to come down. However, D refused and threw some crockery at the police, citing his selfishness as a reason for staying in the void. At one point he said he was reading a book. D was eventually arrested and taken to the local police station.

When interviewed D claimed he did not know what was wrong with him. Mr. Giacalone, who examined D, said D's answers to his questions made no sense at all. D appeared tense throughout the session, and because Mr. Giacalone did not feel comfortable being in the same cell as D, he stopped the assessment and asked D to sit in the custody suite.

As D walked towards the exit of the custody suite, he was approached by Sergeant Watts, with no apparent hostility. D punched Watts in the face, knocking him on the ground. D then attacked a female police officer, PC Thompson, who attempted to restrain him. In an apparent frenzy D hit Thompson in the face, fracturing her jaw and displacing her teeth. Whilst attacking other police officers, D shouted and screamed, with one police officer describing the incidence as a 'most violent outburst'. (3)

D was charged with two counts of affray and one count of inflicting grievous bodily harm contrary to s.20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 respectively. (4) On the same day, he was sectioned under the relevant provisions of the Mental Health legislation. The evidence showed that while in hospital, he was lying in his bed humming and acting strangely. (5)

In the defence statement, it was stated that D woke up feeling paranoid on the day of the incident. He thought he was being watched and pursued by evil spirits, and that the police officers were in fact their agents. At the police station, D thought he had acquired supernatural powers, which he used against the police officers.

The reports supplied by the two psychiatrists, Dr. …

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