Criminal Law Cases – What is Culpability?

When establishing the sentence that should be given to an offender, the first thing that is considered is culpability. This allows the judge, jury, solicitors and all other parties involved, the ability to assess whether or not an offender firstly; was aware of the circumstances of their actions, secondly; whether or not the offender was of sound mind at the time of offending.  The criminal Justice Act of 2003 states that ‘In considering the seriousness of any offence, the court must consider the offender’s culpability in committing the offence and any harm which the offence caused, was intended to cause or might foreseeably have caused’ (Legislation.Gov.UK, 2003) 

There are 4 levels of culpability which must be considered before issuing an individual with a sentence. These are; Intention, recklessness, knowledge and negligence. However, if someone is not of sound mind at the time of the offence then there are more aspects that must be taken into consideration such as their ability to of known right from wrong at the time of offending.  

The Mental Health Act 1983, is in place to ensure that all offenders are treated fairly and taken care of appropriately when standing trial or are in court. This legal act uses the work of psychologists and psychiatrists to assess an individual’s mental capacity before sentencing them to ensure the sentence given is both adventurous for the offender, the victim (s) and society.  

‘In all other cases, unless there is statutory authority to the contrary, the onus is on the prosecution to establish mens rea beyond all reasonable doubt, whether generally or when particular issues arise (Woolmington v DPP [1935] A.C.462) Archbold 17-5.’ (CPS, 2017) Taking this into consideration, how reliable do you think psychologist and psychiatrist assessments are? Can anyone really judge and decide what is a ‘sound mind’ ? 

By Shelby Keppel

 

References: 

Legislation. Gov.UK, 2003. Criminal Justice Act 2003. [Online] Accessible via: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/44/section/143#section-143-3  

Crown Prosecution service, 2017. Mentally disordered offenders. Accessible via: https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/mentally-disordered-offenders  

Bibliography; 

Sentencing guidelines council, 2004. Overreaching principles: seriousness.  [Online PDF] Accessible via; https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Seriousness-guideline.pdf 

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