Keal, Regina v: CACD 18 Mar 2022

Insanity Plea not for D believing he had no choice

The court was asked whether the defence of insanity would be available to a psychotic and deluded defendant who was aware that his act was wrong, but believed himself compelled to perform it. The defendant, with a history of mental problems, had attacked family in a frenzied manner. Whilst doing so he indicated that he knew what he was doing was wrong, but that he was unable to prevent himself. Four psychiatrists agreed that he was under a severe psychotic episode, but differed as to the extent of his impairment.
Held: The appeal failed: ‘ under the M’Naghten Rules, the defence of insanity is not available to a defendant who, although he knew what he was doing was wrong, he believed that he had no choice but to commit the act in question.’
‘we are satisfied that, in the light of the evidence presented to the jury, the judge’s direction of law in the present case was appropriate. The jury were directed to consider whether the appellant knew that what he was doing was ‘wrong’. On that issue, the competing opinions of the psychiatrists were placed before the jury. Two experts took the view that the he did know; the other two considered that he was unable to decide that it was wrong. On the basis of that evidence, and the judge’s direction, the jury could have found that the appellant did not have relevant knowledge of wrongdoing and thus that the defence of insanity was established. They chose not to do so, but instead reached verdicts consistent with the evidence of the prosecution experts. On any view, the convictions are safe.’


The Rt Hon the Lord Burnett of Maldon,
Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales
Lady Justice Thirlwall
Mr Justice Morris


[2022] EWCA Crim 341, [2022] WLR(D) 129, [2022] 4 WLR 41


Bailii, WLRD, Judiciary


Mental Health Act 1983 37


England and Wales


CitedDaniel MNaghtens Case HL 1843
Daniel M’Naghten suffered from a mental disorder under which he believed that he was being persecuted by various bodies in authority, including the Tory Party. He sought to kill the Tory Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, but shot and killed instead . .
CitedRegina v Windle CCA 1952
To establish a defence of insanity at common law it must be shown that the accused did not know that what he was doing was contrary to law. The McNaghten rules are not limited to cases in which the accused is suffering from delusions but apply in . .
CitedJohnson, Regina v CACD 9-Jul-2007
The defendant appealed his conviction of wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm. He was made subject to a hospital order without limit of time under sections 37 and 41 of the Mental Health Act 1983. . .
CitedRegina v G and R HL 16-Oct-2003
The defendants, young boys, had set fire to paper and thrown the lit papers into a wheelie bin, expecting the fire to go out. In fact substantial damage was caused. The House was asked whether a conviction was proper under the section where the . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 14 April 2022; Ref: scu.674616