A CRITICAL APPRAISAL OF MENTAL ILLNESS, INSANITY AND THE INSANITY PLEA IN NIGERIA

EMMANUEL EKPEDOHO ABIAMA
Department Psychology,
University of Uyo, Nigeria

SUMMARY
This work takes a critical look at mental illness, insanity and insanity plea in Nigeria. Mental illness is a clinically recognizable syndrome associated with distress or interferes with personal functioning and good judgment. Insanity is a mental disease that results in a state that impairs one’s ability to reason well and makes one incapable of discharging one’s legal responsibilities. Insanity plea is a legal argument that an accused person should be exculpated from liability if his illegal act is attributable to mental illness. The plea hinges on the assumption of freewill and responsibility for one’s action and on the presumption of saneness of every adult person. Two viewpoints have been posited regarding insanity plea: one view is that the plea is an excuse for people who act irrationally and breach societal peace; the other posits that mentally ill persons lack the degree of freewill necessary to hold them liable for criminal acts, thus they should be exculpated. Generally, both views are concerned with individuals’ freedom and liability for one’s action. The work then explored the avenues people use to fake mental illness so as to benefit from the insanity plea and how to sift genuine pleas from fictitious ones. It then compared and contrasted the three concepts, highlighting their contiguous rather than parallel nature. The work then delved into philosophical inquiry into recent vices in Nigeria and it climaxed with recommendations regarding insanity plea in Nigeria, including a parley between the psychiatric hospital and the prison such that once the patient recovers from his mental illness, he should be sent to the prison for rehabilitation and not punishment, and that the society, the court and mental health experts should be cautious regarding insanity plea in Nigeria.

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Posted in VOLUME 16 N0. (1) APRIL 2014.

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