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The Case of Cole, and the Legal Procedure in ascertaining the Mental Condition of Prisoners


It would be difficult indeed to conceive any circumstances more calculated to bring English Criminal Law into contempt than the results of the trials of Gouldstone and Cole for wilful murder. Our only consolation is that such pitiful exhibitions of the working of our present judicial machinery, in cases in which the plea of insanity is set up, may lead to some practical reform therein. Had any commentary been desired on the necessity of carrying out the Resolution∗ passed at the recent Annual Meeting of our Association, under the presidency of Dr. Orange, and again at the October meeting of the Metropolitan Branch of the British Medical Association, such commentary, written in letters of blood, has indeed been supplied by the occurrence of these two trials in rapid succession.

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“That prisoners suspected of being mentally deranged should be examined by competent medical men as soon after the commission of the crime with which they are charged as possible, and that the examination should be provided for by the Treasury, in a manner similar to that in which counsel for the prosecution is provided. It is suggested that the examiners should be the medical officer of the prison, the medical officer of the County Asylum or Hospital for the Insane in the neighbourhood, and a medical practitioner of standing in the town where the prison is situated; that the three medical men shall, after consulting together, draw up a joint report, to be given to the prosecuting counsel, the cost being borne by the public purse, inasmuch as it is useless to tell an insane man that the burden of proving himself insane lies upon himself.” (See Journal, Oct., 1883, p. 451).

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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: -
  • EISSN: 2514-9946
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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The Case of Cole, and the Legal Procedure in ascertaining the Mental Condition of Prisoners

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