The “Not Criminally Responsible” Defence

Numerous individuals charged with criminal offences are afflicted with mental illnesses. In severe cases, a defendant's mental health condition may serve as a defence, as it could impede their ability to understand the consequences and legality of their actions or to recognize their actions as wrongful. The defence of 'not criminally responsible,' (NCR) also known as the 'insanity' defence, is available to individuals in such situations.

Call (306) 994-9522 to receive a free legal consultation with a criminal lawyer. 

Exploring the Defence of Not Criminally Responsible

Section 16 (1) of the criminal code states that “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.”

Mental Disorders

A "mental disorder" encompasses a range of mental health conditions and diseases that adversely affect an individual’s emotions, thought processes, behaviours, and capability to manage daily life activities. Bipolar disorder, personality and anxiety disorders, dissociative disorders and schizophrenia may be examples of these conditions.

For a mental condition to be categorized as a disorder, it must be significantly pronounced, demonstrating conclusively that an individual lacks awareness of the moral, legal, and societal ramifications of their actions.

Call (306) 994-9522 for a free legal consultation. Our expert legal counsel will discuss your case and can discuss whether an NCR defence may exist in your case.

Supporting an NCR Defence

This defence requires the assertion of two main components. The party bringing forth the issue must convincingly demonstrate that the person did indeed commit the specified act and, concurrently, was, at the time of the act:

  • afflicted by a mental disorder and
  • incapable of understanding the “nature and quality” of the act or that what they did was morally wrong. 

A verdict of NCR doesn’t imply an escape from accountability. Individuals found NCR may still find themselves detained in a mental health institution indefinitely unless they can successfully assure the Review Board of being no threat to the public.

Have you been charged with a criminal offence? Call (306) 994-9522 to obtain a free legal consultation and discuss the strength of your case and the options available to you with a lawyer.

Investigating Mental Disorders

Exhaustive inquiries into a person’s prior and subsequent psychiatric history are imperative for asserting an NCR defence. Typically, defence will need to present evidence from one or more forensic psychiatrists. Conversely, the Crown attorney may counter by presenting their psychiatric experts, leading to a clash of professional opinions, with the verdict relying on the court’s interpretation of whether the NCR criteria have been satisfied.

Mens Rea

Within the framework of Canadian criminal law, it is incumbent upon the crown to establish that the accused harboured a culpable mindset or “mens rea” when committing an offence. For a conviction, the crown must substantiate, beyond reasonable doubt, that the accused possessed the intent or awareness of the illicit act at the moment of the purported crime. The presence of both the act and “mens rea” should be concurrent at the time of the crime’s commission and be established by the crown.

Presumption of Sanity

Section 16 (2) of the Criminal Code states that “Every person is presumed not to suffer from a mental disorder so as to be exempt from criminal responsibility by virtue of subsection (1), until the contrary is proved on the balance of probabilities.”

Therefore, the defence bears the onus to validate that the accused was under the influence of a mental disorder during the crime, inhibiting their capacity to grasp the essence and implications of their act or to discern the wrongfulness of their actions.

Facing Criminal Charges? Hire Nicholas Robinson, Criminal Lawyer 

Nicholas Robinson has over 13 years of experience handling criminal allegations for clients. Mr. Robinson uses a client-centred approach to provide personalized legal solutions to those charged with numerous types of criminal offences including impaired driving and sexual assault. Reach Mr. Robinson today at (306) 994-9522 for a free initial consultation.

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