The sad case of the death of Liam Hogan at the hands of his father John Hogan, and John Hogan's acquittal on murder charges today in Greece raises some serious concerns about how "mental illness" is a suitable excuse for terrible crimes, and how it means that the victims miss out on justice in some cases.
If we start with the basic principle that most people who commit heinous crimes are not mentally "normal", in the sense of the word that most people would see it, then we have to ask to what extent most people who commit serious pre-mediated murders, rapes, and vicious attacks are themselves actually suffering from some sort of mental illness.
Yesterday we read about three youths who beat a man of 23 who had learning difficulties to death for a £5 bet. Aren't these the actions too of someone who is seriously psychologically disturbed ? Where do we draw the line on this issue ?
What about Slobodan Milosevic. Charged with war crimes, the mass executions of tens of thousands of people, are we to beleive this man was not unhinged in some way ? Is this not a defence that he was actually not mentally very well balanced ?
If we follow the whole "mentally incapable" argument to its logical conclusion, we are left with a dilemma in that most people who commit serious pre meditated crimes should be found not guilty and instead given counselling or treatment.
But where does all this leave those who commit a serious crime by accident ? Is it fair that someone can kill their kids and claim "I am sorry, I don't know what came over me", and get off, when someone might expect to serve a long prison sentence for manslaughter, which is not planned accidental crime.
If a mentally unbalanced person did not mean to kill, did a lorry driver mean to kill if he falls asleep at the wheel of his lorry killing people in a crash ?
I've asked a lot of questions and don't have all the answers, but it worries me that the system treats pre meditated acts, even by people who are suffering from mental illness, in a far more lenient way that people who commit manslaughter. That does not seem right to me.