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Mental Disability/Illness Should Not Be Granted as a Defense

A defendant’s mental disability should not excuse their negligence. According to the corrective justice theory, if an individual injures another and their actions are attributed to mental illness, the action is thus immaterial. Scholars have argued that mentally disabled individuals should be excused from liability due to the lack of mental capacity to commit negligence (Fanning, 2017). Defining mental capacity is sometimes difficult. Thus, an individual is assumed to possess the ordinary capacity not to harm other people unless a case of incapacity is proven. Therefore, capacity is central to liability (Fanning, 2017. There is a misunderstanding of mental illness, which has hindered the understanding of how mental illness affects humans’ choices and behaviour. Central to this paper is a review of the case of Regina versus Parveen Mann, in which the defendant was found not guilty owing to his state of mind at the time on account of mental disorder pursuant to s. 672.34 of the Criminal Code.

In the case of Regina versus Parveen justice, Mike Tammen ruled that the defendant Parveen Maan was mentally unstable when he stabbed his wife to death (The Courts of British Columbia, 2018). According to the ruling, Mr. Parveen Man could not control the voices in his head telling him to kill his wife Goldie in 2017(The Courts of British Columbia, 2018). Reports from two psychiatrists showed Maan had been suffering from mental illness before killing his wife and had been hearing voices in his head. Additionally, Maan called the police and admitted having killed his wife, noting that his wife was violent and using bad language. It was thus proven that Maan had a mental illness, and he was therefore not criminally responsible for killing his wife.

Law offenders are usually held criminally liable for their offences. It is based on the belief that an individual is to be blamed for their behaviour because they had the option of not breaking the law (Kooijmans & Meynen, 2017). In contrast, an individual cannot be prosecuted for an offence that is not blamed for his actions. This thus forms the basis of mental disability in which an offender cannot be held liable. Justice Mike Tamme, therefore, based his judgement on this principle.

The case of Regina versus Parveen Maan is controversial. This is because Parveen Mann dialled 911 and admitted that he had stabbed his wife with a machete, and it had been found that he was not criminally responsible for killing her because he was mentally disabled at the time (The Courts of British Columbia, 2018). Therefore, it is controversial because he knew his actions were wrong, and killing his wife was wrong, and he would go to jail. Additionally, the defendant had called the police after killing his wife because he knew he would be arrested and taken to prison (The Courts of British Columbia, 2018). This, therefore, shows that Mr. Parveen Mann knew that his actions were wrong. Therefore, because the defendant was aware of his actions, it wasn’t easy to determine his mental state during the incident. However, the court ruled that Maan lacked sufficient intelligence to know if the commission of murder was during the incident because, during the time of committing the murder, he was obsessed with delusions or might have been subject to impulses, which is as a result of insanity that his mind is unable to process, unlike ordinary people who can discern between right and wrong and in such situations the accused is usually exempted from liability. Therefore, due to the difficulty in determining beyond reasonable doubt that Maan was aware of his actions during the incident, mental illness should not always be taken for granted as a defence.

As per the facts presented, experts Dr. Kolchak and Dr. Riar both held the opinion that Maan, 48, was suffering from mental illness in February 2017. This is also based on his hospitalization in India; his symptoms at the time and his medication all indicated mental instability (The Courts of British Columbia, 2018). However, there was a lack of records from India, making it difficult for the experts to conclude. Even though both dragonized the accused with psychosis, both could agree on the exact form of mental illness (The Courts of British Columbia, 2018). Additionally, the experts have different opinions on Dr. Kolchak, noting that the accused was engrossed in psychotic thinking and was unaware of what was wrong. In contrast, Dr, Riar stated the opposite (The Courts of British Columbia, 2018). This thus shows that the case failed to find out without reasonable doubt that the accused was mentally unstable during the incident, thus raising questions on the judge’s judgement and analysis of facts.

Knowledge of medicine and mental illness changes due to advancements in technology and change. Therefore, classifications of mental illness are subject to change. Consequently, courts should not become dependent on these shifting gradations to resolve specific cases but should resolve each case independently. In the case of Regina versus Parveen Maan, an account of his illness is given in which his mental illness is described to have started while he was studying engineering due to the experiences he had with drugs and later on became depressed, hearing voices in his head that he believed were his coworkers abusing him (The Courts of British Columbia, 2018). In this case, his problems persisted later in his life, culminating in the incident in which he killed his life (The Courts of British Columbia, 2018). Therefore, through the years, the diagnosis and determination of mental illness changes. Thus, judgement on mental disability should be analyzed independently in determining the mental stability of an individual during the trial.

In the controversial case under review, it is noted that the couple had marital problems. Therefore, there was motive for the accused, Maan, to kill his wife. Therefore, there is repeated evidence of issues in their marriage. Additionally, there is an indication that the accused had anger towards his wife (The Courts of British Columbia, 2018). Therefore, it could be argued that the accused had the intent to kill; additionally, Goldie had severe injuries showing that Mann struck his wife severally, thus showing that Maan had an intention of causing harm to his wife like death (The Courts of British Columbia, 2018). Therefore, criminal justice systems need to consider aspects such as intent to cause harm, as portrayed in the case against Maan that led to the death of his wife.

Consideration should also be put on cases that show that defendants are aware or ought to be reasonable ware that they have a mental disability (Fanning, 2017. This is because these defendants reasonably know or ought to know that they can behave in a reasonable behaviour is sometimes impaired (Fanning, 2017). The legal systems should therefore find out the conduct of the defendants against their ability to care. This is because mental illness does not render those with mental disabilities incapable of providing care (Fanning, 2017). Therefore, just like the law does not offer an exception to defendants taking medication and their judgement might affect their ability to drive or harm pedestrians, mental illness should not be viewed as an opportunity to exempt illegal behaviour (Fanning, 2017). This is because even defendants who are yet to be dragonized with mental illness may be aware of symptoms that would lead to the risks. In the case of Regina versus Maan, the defendant was aware of his mental illness, as evidenced by the account, he gives in court (The Courts of British Columbia, 2018). This thus shows that he was aware of his mental instability that he has been suffering from since the nineties and was aware of his ability to cause harm.

In the case, the defendant, Maan, is accused of having bought a knife, left it in his car, and later returned the knife to the store, noting that he did not wish to have the knife anymore (The Courts of British Columbia 2018). The accused, therefore, gives an account of how voices in his head prompted him to kill his wife Goldie and tried to resist the voices that drove him to kill his wife as she would bring him sorrow. This thus shows that the accused was aware of the invents leading to the death of his wife, and motive is presently owing to his decision to purchase a knife and his clear articulation of the events during this period (The Courts of British Columbia, 2018). Thus, it would have been important to consider this during the trial before acquitting him of the charge based on his mental disability.

The relevance of the Convention on Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities should be considered. CRPD aims to protect and promote the enjoyment of human rights and freedoms of disabled persons. (Fanning, 2017) Thus, states are subjected to either modify or abolish laws that discriminate against the disabled. This brings to question the insanity defence in a court of law. The UNHCR, therefore, requires defence that is based on criminal responsibility because of mental disability be removed (Fanning, 2017). This is because they do not refer to insanity defence as described in civil law. Mann killed his wife and thus deserved to face charges without discrimination due to his actions’ gravity.

Excluding mentally ill people from the justice system can be a mistake, especially when acknowledging their mistakes. Therefore, if an individual is in a state of mind to admit his wrongdoing, the person should be charged. In the case, the defendant, Maan, acknowledged his crime of killing the wife and after that called the police and confessed to his mistake; thus, he was in the right state of mind to know that he had committed a crime and consequently should have been convicted of his crime legally(The Courts of British Columbia, 2018). Therefore owing to the ability of a defendant to acknowledge their crime, the justice system should review and assess the probability of an individual to acknowledge their crime and find them of their intended wrongdoing.

Another reason is that abolishing insanity defence ensures that society is greatly protected. This is because fair application of the law increases the effectiveness of the justice system. This is because sometimes mentally disabled individuals are bound to be repeat offenders, which might affect society’s safety; therefore, there is a need for society to ensure better protection of society by abolishing defence because of insanity. Therefore, measures should be put in place to ensure that mentally unstable individuals are not a danger to themselves and the society in which they live. Maan’s mental disability diagnosis spans over many years, and events leading to his actions could have been prevented if proper diagnosis, follow-up, and treatment had been considered.

Conclusively, mental instability should not be an excuse for defence. In the case presented by Regina Vs Maan, the court ruled in favour of the defendant despite him acknowledging that he had killed his wife and calling the police after that. The defendant was thus aware of his actions. In this case, it is noted that Maan bought a knife to kill his wife, further raising questions of his intentions to commit the crime and evidence showing that there were difficulties in their marriage. Additionally, the difference in experts’ opinion on his state of mind during the incident also questions the ruling on his defence based on mental instability. Therefore, it is essential for the state of mental instability to e established beyond a reasonable doubt, reviewing laws on the right of persons with disabilities to ensure fairness and to ensure that society is protected.


Fanning, J. (2017). Mental capacity as a concept in negligence: Against an insanity defence. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 1-21.

Kooijmans, T., & Meynen, G. (2017). Who establishes the presence of a mental disorder in defendants? Medicolegal considerations on a European court of human rights case. Frontiers in Psychiatry8.

The Courts of British Columbia. (2018). 2018 BCSC 2414 R. v. Maan.


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