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Insanity Defense and Plea Bargaining in the UK

The process of using insanity as a form of defense came into public scrutiny after the attempted assassination of UK’s prime minister. After the culprit was released under insanity claims, the public and the judicial systems felt the need to develop a proper definition of insanity defense. This led to the McNaughten’s rule that tried to set conditions for criminals using insanity as a form of plea. According to this rule, all the culprits had to prove that by the time of perpetrating the act, they were completely out of control over their thoughts. After the use of the McNaughten’s rule, some individuals started to question its credibility and in the 1950’s the Durham version was introduced (Jarvis, n.d.). Under this version, the criminal was considered to be innocent if there was a possibility of not getting engaged into the criminal activity was it not for the mental condition.

Over the years, the rules have been changed in different countries to the recent Twinkie defense, which allows for criminals charged with some homicides and related offences to plead under insanity terms. The process has different ethical and moral implications. Firstly, the claim on insanity can be violated by many criminals and for this reason criminals have the opportunity of being released despite the severity of the crimes committed.

The ethical and moral issues notwithstanding, the use of insanity should be addressed from all perspectives. Insanity impairs the normal reasoning and judgments of individuals. This means that most of the medically insane individuals have no choice or rational foundation when performing some actions. The inability to differentiate right from wrong should be considered when making legal decisions (Umbright, 2006). In addition, although the judicial system is mandated with the role of ensuring fairness and justice, it should be very careful in its investigations.

It’s the constitutional right of every individual to receive the best and most appropriate justice. Some legal interpretations have however been against the decision to declare an individual innocent under the claim of insanity. The main focus with these legal frameworks is investigating the intent to commit a certain crime. Since the insanity defense requires more than the intent, it’s disregarded as an inappropriate tool for justice. Nevada Supreme Court for example disregards the use of insanity as a form of defense (Jarvis, n.d.). In its part, the intent to commit a crime is of importance and since the insanity plea goes beyond this, then it’s not appropriate in the judicial system.

According to Gado (2004), justice is disregarded and undermined when the insanity defense is allowed to operate. This is because there are many crimes that can never be reversed. Their consequences and severity should be countered by strong judicial frameworks that do not condone any form of crime irrespective of the circumstances surrounding it. Insanity is perceived as a loophole in the judicial system that is used by many criminals to escape the consequences of perpetrating various forms of crimes. While rights of individuals must be properly addressed and maintained, the overall judicial system cannot be compromised under claims of insanity defense.

Plea bargaining, under which insanity defense and others are, is one of the issues that requires careful scrutiny as well as strong ethical and moral foundations, for it to become practical in the current judicial system (Sandefr, 2003). While some individuals are released under the plea bargaining process on fair grounds, most are the individuals who use this as an opportunity to beat justice. Authorities have been known to use the plea bargaining process to encourage cooperating defendants. However, the consequences of releasing dangerous criminals to the society are overlooked in most instances. For this reason, the plea bargaining process weakens the justice system and establishes unfair rulings. Criminals should never be ranked. The baselines for penalties and charges should be used as contained in the legal provisions.

Although there have been ethical arguments surrounding the plea bargaining process, there is need to make the practices legal to avoid blind application by the authority. Regulating their application should also be done in order to avoid the misuse of the practices. One of the ethical applications is the release of a cooperating criminal to help in arresting a larger and more dangerous criminal. The problem comes when defining the conditions under which it should be used.

The insanity defense under plea bargaining is therefore not a legitimate process. This is because the process creates loopholes for culprits to use in their defense (Gado, 2004). In addition, it justifies some crimes and creates a basis for criminals to escape justice. Although there are real cases of insanity-compelled crimes, mental correction centers should be used rather than proclaiming an individual as innocent. While McNaughten rule asserts to the presence of insanity-driven crimes, it seeks to establish a firmer conviction to the crime. The aspect of intent should be looked into.

Under these conditions, criminals would find it hard top escape justice, but if the Durham version was allowed to operate, many individuals would start blaming stress, controllable depression and other superfluous claims in their plea defenses (Umbright, 2006). Insanity defenses create liberty towards perpetrating certain crimes. In addition, the victims’ are left without the satisfaction of justice. The duration spent by individuals under the insanity defense is shorter than that stipulated by law and which is required of similar offences in prison. The defense therefore establishes unfair and unequal distribution of justice, an issue that weakens the justice system by offering the criminals an opportunity to beat justice.

In conclusion, the plea bargaining process should be regulated and used only when absolutely necessary, due to the ethical and moral implications it has on the society. This avoids misuse of the insanity plea and ensures that criminals face the appropriate sentences in order to curb rise in criminal activities. Allowing the insanity plea to operate under the justice system would create loopholes for criminals and this could weaken the justice system.


Gado, M. (2004). The insanity defense. TruTV Crime Library. Web.

Jarvis, A., (n.d.). The Insanity Defense – A Constitutional Right? Web.

Sandefr, T. (2003). In defense of plea bargaining. Regulation Fall. Web.

Umbright, E. (2006). How do we decide who’s insane? Wentzville, MO: St. Charles County Business Record.

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