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Dangerous Lunatics Charged with Crime: Note on Operation of 15th Section of 25 and 26 Vict., cap. 54 (Lunacy Statutes, Scotland).†

  • John Carswell (a1)

The case of W. C., a boarded-out lunatic, who recently made a murderous attack upon the wife and child of his guardian, has brought under public notice and discussion several matters connected with lunacy administration in Scotland. It would, obviously, be improper to discuss questions here which are still under the responsible consideration of the General Board of Lunacy. Therefore I do not intend to refer to such questions, and may venture to express the hope that the subsequent discussion will be confined to the one point raised, viz., the mode of procedure adopted by the criminal authorities.

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Journal of Mental Science, Vol. xxxiii., pp. 163 and 259.

The Scottish Lunacy Act, 25 and 26 Vic., cap. 54, section 15, provides that “When any lunatic shall have been apprehended, charged with assault or other offence inferring danger to the lieges, or when any lunatic shall be found in a state threatening danger to the lieges, or in a state offensive to public decency, it shall be lawful for the Sheriff of the County in which such lunatic may have been apprehended or found, upon application by the Procurator Fiscal or the Inspector of Poor, or other person, accompanied by a certificate from a medical person, bearing that the lunatic is in a state threatening such danger, or in a state offensive or threatening to be offensive to public decency, forthwith to commit such lunatic to some place of safe custody.” After providing for due notice to be given, the section goes on to state that “if the Inspector of the Parish does not within 24 hours undertake, to the satisfaction of the Sheriff, to make due arrangements for the safe custody of such lunatic, the Sheriff shall accordingly proceed to take evidence of the condition of such lunatic, and upon being satisfied … he shall commit the lunatic to any asylum … and such lunatic shall be detained in such asylum until cured, or until caution shall be found for his safe custody, in which last case it shall be lawful for the Sheriff, upon application to that effect, and on being satisfied as to such caution … to authorise the delivery of the lunatic to the person so finding security,” etc.

In illustration of this the case of Mrs. L. may be quoted, who, in the restless and violent excitement of an attack of puerperal insanity, murdered her child, manifestly without criminal intent or even homicidal impulse. She was placed in Perth criminal lunatic department, and detained there for several years. One can hardly doubt that the proper place for her was an ordinary asylum, and the proper legal procedure under the 15th section.—J. C.

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Dangerous Lunatics Charged with Crime: Note on Operation of 15th Section of 25 and 26 Vict., cap. 54 (Lunacy Statutes, Scotland).†

  • John Carswell (a1)
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