Canada’s Mental Health Act is a law that protects and safeguards Canadian citizens living with mental health conditions. The treatment and protections provided to those living with mental illnesses are there for both the person with the condition and those living among them. Every province has its own mental health law to serve its people. The B.C. Mental Health Act specifically serves the citizens of British Columbia.
What is the Presumption About Mental Illness?
Fair or not, every individual is presumed not to suffer from a mental illness when police and other authority figures approach them. Only when the contrary is proven does that change how the interactions play out and how consequences are decided.
This presumption has led to some controversy as it suggests an ableist default by police and authorities. Additionally, not all police are adequately trained to deal with people with mental health conditions. This lack of training can make interactions between police officers and people with mental illnesses dangerous for those with certain conditions.
Can a Person with a Mental Disorder Be Held Responsible for a Criminal Act?
If a mental health condition makes a person incapable of understanding the nature of the act they’ve committed – such as whether or not they understood right from wrong – they cannot be deemed responsible for the act in question. If they are not responsible for the act, they cannot be held criminally liable for any assault charges, sexual assault charges, or other charges.
In addition, those incapable of understanding the legal proceedings shall also be considered unfit to stand trial. If a person’s mental health condition prevents them from comprehending the basics of the trial to decide their fate, they cannot be tried, sentenced, or punished for the crime of assault.
The burden of proof falls to the defendant’s criminal defence lawyers. It will be up to them to prove to the court that the defendant suffers from the qualifying mental health condition. Only after this has been satisfactorily established to the judge and jury will the mental health disorder defence be considered.
Both the defendant’s lawyers and the prosecution will employ the use of medical experts to examine the accused. These medical professionals will return to the court with their assessment of the accused’s mental illness and help determine whether or not they are fit to stand trial or receive a sentence.
What is a Legal Verdict of ‘Not Criminally Responsible?’
Not everyone with a mental health condition is immune to prosecution. Seemingly countless Canadian citizens suffer from anxiety, depression, or some other condition, especially in a post-COVID lockdown world. People with depression and anxiety typically have a perfectly decent understanding of right and wrong, though, meaning that they can be held responsible for the acts they commit.
Only those with mental illnesses that rob them of their ability to understand the consequences of their actions and the basics of right and wrong may receive a verdict of ‘not criminally responsible.’
It’s important to note that those who claim they should not be held criminally accountable for their actions do not fit into the same category. People with narcissistic personalities and those desperate to escape judgment are not the same as those with mental illnesses that prevent them from understanding how the world works and should not be treated as such.
Request a Case Review with an Experienced Criminal Defender in Toronto Today
The law firm of William Jaksa Criminal Litigation has years of experience representing clients accused of criminal acts in the Toronto, Ontario area. If your mentally ill loved one has been accused of assault, there may be legal defence strategies available to defend them from facing judgment for the crimes they did not or could not comprehend.
There can be no guarantees in criminal law, but the experience of criminal defence lawyer William Jaksa should provide confidence that your case is in the right hands. To learn more about your legal options, please get in touch with our law firm for a case evaluation at 647-951-8078.