Young defendant not guilty of murder by reason of insanity

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Last week, at the Old Bailey, Ali Naseem Bajwa QC and Julia Krish represented a 16-year old defendant cleared of the murder of his mother.

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In February this year, when the defendant was 15 years old, he attacked and killed his mother at their home in east London with a metal claw hammer and a broken pair of scissors. Witnesses described the defendant as using the scissors to cut a hole into his mother’s chest and then trying to pull her heart out.

The defence advanced was one of legal insanity. All of the four psychiatrists instructed as expert witnesses agreed that the defendant was suffering from a severe psychotic mental illness at the time of the killing. His symptoms included hearing voices and experiencing delusional beliefs: for example, he thought that his mother was a witch who had overnight killed his father (who had actually died of natural causes some seven years earlier).

Two psychiatrists (one of whom had been instructed by the Crown) concluded that the defendant would be entitled to a legal defence of insanity, on the basis that, at the time of the killing, he was suffering from a "defect of reason" caused by a "disease of the mind" which caused him not to know what he was doing and/or not to know what he was doing was legally wrong.

Having been directed by the trial judge, HHJ Rook QC, that, at the very least, the defendant fell to be convicted of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. The judge disposed of the case by way of a hospital order with a restriction order.

The defence of insanity dates back to the 19th century, although proposals for reform are awaited from the Law Commission. It is a little-used defence, although Ali and Julia succeeded in obtaining a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity in 2012 in the case of R v Malik (in which the defendant killed his wife whilst suffering from a psychotic depression) and, in September, Julia secured the same verdict in an aggravated arson at Inner London Crown Court.

The defendant was represented by Ali Naseem Bajwa QC and Julia Krish. They were instructed by Mark Ashford of TV Edwards.

The case has been reported in the East London Advertiser.

Ali Naseem Bajwa QC and Julia Krish are members of the Garden Court Crime Team.

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