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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Depressed but not legally mentally impaired

Meron Wondemaghen
International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 2014, 37 (2): 160-7
24268825
This article examines the mental impairment (insanity) defense in the Australian state of Victoria and argues that the defense is successful only when offenders suffer from psychotic mental illnesses. This raises the question about how non-psychotic offenders are dealt with by the courts when they claim 'mental impairment' for serious acts of violence such as homicide, particularly when a relatively large number of perpetrators involved in homicide suffer from non-psychotic illnesses like depression. The analysis shows that depressive illnesses do not reach the threshold for mental impairment (legal insanity) such that they mitigate violent criminal behavior, although they can, arguably, diminish culpability. This article draws upon existing literature, qualitative analysis of two court cases and semi-structured interviews with four legal representatives to make its conclusions.

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