Criminal accountability and mental disorders around the world
Pilot project investigating how selected countries in the global south respond to mental disorders within the criminal law. The project is lead by professor Linda Gröning and is co-funded by the CMI/UiB collaboration fund.
Current criminal insanity doctrines and related systems for handling mentally ill offenders have been formed by the effects of traditions in different national criminal justice systems. Different national systems and related research have also provided different answers to the insanity problem, engraved by history, legal culture and available resources.
In some cases, countries may simply have different statutory requirements for what can count as criminal insanity, while in others, there may be merely customary ways to avoid criminal responsibility due to mental illness that remain uncodified in law — or there may be no insanity defense of any sort at all.
At the same time, the criminal insanity doctrines and systems of the different countries rely on shared constitutional values of individual autonomy and equality, and more fundamentally, on shared ideas about humans as rational responsible agents. Moreover, the criminal insanity doctrine is associated with mental disorders as medical constructs that claim validity across different societies and cultures.
These aspects indicate that we may in some respects have common ideas of criminal insanity, despite surface level differences in legal rules and systems. However, comparative information about criminal insanity is limited. Much of the scholarly literature on the insanity defense is concentrated around the Anglo-American context. A particular knowledge gap is understanding how the insanity defense is constructed and operates in the Global South.
This pilot project aims to explore the cultural and practical differences in how societies view and respond to insanity and mental illness and how they deal with it within the criminal law. The research will draw on perspectives from law, anthropology, psychiatry, political science and philosophy.
The project will attemt to gather basic data on requirements for criminal insanity in a handful countries in the global south, and will situate the legal rules and systems pertaining to criminal insanity within the context of access to mental health services and cultural views on insanity and its relationship to criminal accountability.
The goal is to expand the reseach discourse on criminal insanity beyond western countries, and lay a knowledge foundation and establish a network for further research on criminal accountability and mental disorders around the world.