The insanity defense: a South African perspective

M G Nair, W H Wessels
Medicine and Law 1992, 11 (3-4): 297-302
The insanity defence has always been a contentious issue. This study was carried out on a sample of 95 consecutive forensic, psychiatric observation cases. The cost-effectiveness of ordering routine investigations during the observation period appeared to be questionable since the results of selective special investigations yielded more useful information. It was found that there was little calculated abuse of the insanity defence, but that the situation was rather one of barely literate persons naively attempting to use it, especially in cases of serious crime. The incidence of these naive users might have been greatly reduced had there been adequate screening before the accused were sent for observation. The court generally accepted the psychiatrist's opinion with regard to mental illness and criminal responsibility. It, however, differed on occasion when it came to the disposal of those accused who were found to be mentally ill.

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