The Role Of Mental Health In Murder Changes And Trials

April 6, 2023


The relationship between mental health and criminal behaviour is a complex and often debated topic. While the vast majority of people with mental health conditions are not violent, in some cases, an accused person’s mental health may be a critical factor in determining their guilt or innocence in a murder trial.

Accordingly, Canadian law recognizes the importance of mental health in the criminal justice system. As a result, mental health can play a significant role in murder trials. However, the legal framework surrounding mental health in murder charges and trials is complex. It can be challenging to navigate, particularly for those unfamiliar with the legal system.

If you or someone you know is facing murder charges in Edmonton and has a disturbed mental state, immediately reach out to an experienced criminal defence lawyer for legal assistance.

Beyond doubt, mental health can play a significant role in murder trials and the outcomes thereof. For example, an accused person may raise the defence of ‘not being criminally responsible due to a mental disorder’ (NCRMD). This defence acknowledges that the accused committed the act but argues that they lacked the mental capacity to appreciate the nature and consequences of their actions or to know that they were wrong.

Although such a defence exists, NCRMD only accounts for a small proportion of the total crime cases in Canada. Those that are eligible for this defence rarely involve serious crimes like homicide and attempted murder. Thus, it is essential to seek professional legal advice to understand your options and rights.

In this post, we will explore the role of mental health in trials and the pressing of murder charges in Canada.

Mental Health And Criminal Responsibility

In the context of the subject at hand, criminal responsibility refers to the legal obligation of an individual to be held accountable for their criminal actions. In Canada, criminal responsibility is determined by an individual’s mental state at the time of the offence.

Thus, the court’s decision whether to convict or not to convict an accused directly relies on the latter’s mental health. However, establishing an accused’s mental state and their criminal defence lawyer’s claim to NCRMD is easier said than done.

In Canada, there are several legal standards used to determine criminal responsibility. One of the most well-known is the M’Naghten rule, which originated in England in the mid-19th century. This rule states that a person is not guilty of a crime if, at the time of the act, they did not know what they were doing or did not understand that it was wrong.

Another legal standard is the irresistible impulse test. The latter holds that a person is not guilty of a crime if they are unable to control their actions due to a mental illness. This standard is based on the idea that individuals with mental health issues may not be able to control their impulses and may act in ways that they would not otherwise do.

On this note, criminal defence lawyers play a crucial role in advocating for the accused with mental health issues. They argue in court that their client was not criminally responsible for their actions due to their mental health and may advocate for reduced charges or a different outcome.

Let us provide you with an insight into how Slaferek Law’s team of reputed criminal defence lawyers can use the insanity defence in trials for the accused.

Insanity Defence

As per Section 16 (1) of the Criminal Code of Canada, “No person is criminally responsible for an act committed or an omission made while suffering from a mental disorder that rendered the person incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act or omission or of knowing that it was wrong.”

However, the onus of proof, in this regard, falls on the party that raises the concern. In most cases, the party is the accused’s defence team that must prove the latter beyond any reasonable doubt in the course of the trial.

The insanity defence is based on the idea that a person who is not in their right mind cannot be held fully responsible for their actions. It aims to show that the accused was incapable of understanding the nature and consequences of their actions at the time the offence was committed and, therefore, should not be found guilty.

Our criminal defence lawyers work closely with mental health professionals to build a strong case to show that our client was not criminally responsible for their actions due to their mental illness or disorder.

About Slaferek Law

We are a team of professional criminal defence lawyers serving Edmonton and surrounding areas with the aim of providing high-end criminal defence services specifically tailored towards each client’s unique needs. Learn more about Slaferek Law.

Are you facing criminal charges in Edmonton? Contact us today to discuss your options.

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Contacting Darin H. Slaferek

We specialize in criminal law, delivering ethical, effective, and efficient legal solutions that prioritize the best interests of our clients.