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The Disuse of Inquisitions under the New Lunacy Acts


The comparative disuse of inquisitions under the new Lunacy Acts is naturally giving rise to much uncertainty and diversity of opinion in medico-legal circles. An attempt to explain the nature and extent of the departure which has been taken under these Statutes may not, therefore, be inopportune. It should be premised that—thanks to the somewhat meagre interest which medico-legal questions excite in Parliament—the pages of Hansard throw little light upon the solution of the difficulty, and the matter is, of course, not one that can readily be made the subject of judicial interpretation.

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The Judge in Lunacy was defined by the 91st Section of the Act to mean the Lord Chancellor or any Judge of the Supreme Court of Judicature, entrusted for the time being with the care and commitment of the custody of the persons and estates of idiots, lunatics, and persons of unsound mind. The Act of 1889 is wholly repealed by the Act of 1890, but the expression Judge in Lunacy, though occurring in the latter Act, is not defined in its interpretation clause, nor is this omission remedied by the Lunacy Act, 1891!

A lunatic means an idiot or person of unsound mind. Section 341, Act of 1890.

Another objection to Section 116 of the Act of 1890 was that while the estates of the persons included in it were deriving the benefit of the legal arrangements of the statute, they were released from the obligation of making an adequate contribution to the funds by which those arrangements are carried into effect. This defect has, however, been removed by the Lunacy Act, 1891, Section 27, Sub-Section 3.

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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 Disuse of Inquisitions under the New Lunacy Acts

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