M ‘Naughten’s Case

M ‘Naughten’s Case

M ‘Naughten’s Case

The M'Naghten case, also known as Regina v. M'Naghten, was a landmark legal case in 1843 that significantly impacted how criminal responsibility was assessed in cases involving mental illness.

Daniel M'Naghten, a Scottish woodcutter with delusions, shot Edward Drummond, mistaking him for the British Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel.

M'Naghten's defense argued insanity, claiming he couldn't distinguish right from wrong due to his mental state.

The House of Lords was asked to advise the Queen on the proper form of acquittal for someone suffering from insanity at the time of the offense.

They established the "M'Naghten Rules," which stated that to be exempt from responsibility due to insanity, the defendant must prove:

  •  They were laboring under a defect of reason from disease of the mind.
  •  They didn't understand the nature and quality of their act at the time.
  •  They didn't know what they were doing was wrong.

M'Naghten was acquitted on the grounds of insanity but confined to a secure mental institution throughout his life. The case shifted the focus from the nature of the act to the mental state of the offender.

It raised important questions about the relationship between mental illness, criminal responsibility, and punishment.