It would have been interesting if Richard Gamble, the boy who committed the murderous outrage in Islington last autumn, and who was found unfit to plead at the Old Bailey January Sessions, had been able to take his trial. From all accounts he belonged to the class of instinctive juvenile criminals whom the law is gradually coming to recognise as proper objects not for punishment, but for treatment in asylums, and any fresh precedent which might have strengthened this growing judicial tendency would have been welcome. Its supremacy is already, however, in all probability assured. The truth is that lawyers began to be more reasonable on the subject when alienists began to reject as untenable the positive assertion of some French and American writers that there was in such cases an entire absence of any mental lesion. The result of the Plaistow case is a direct recognition of the existence of the only kind of moral insanity in which medical experts themselves now believe. Apropos of the Plaistow case, however, we view with considerable apprehension the ruling of Mr. Justice Kennedy that as Coombes was not convicted, the conviction of the man Fox as an accessory was not possible. Of course we offer no opinion as to Fox's guilt or innocence. But the learned judge's decision on this point appears to ignore the fact that lunatics are found guilty under the new Act, and that all that their insanity does for them is to excuse them from penal consequences. It will be a very unfortunate condition of things indeed if accessories to crimes committed by lunatics are to escape scot free. Mr. Justice Kennedy appears to have also overlooked the fact that the trial and conviction of the principal offender is not necessary under the law as it has existed since 1861. His assumption that the conviction of the lunatic is necessary therefore rests on no better foundation than his assumption that a verdict of “guilty, but insane,” is tantamount to a verdict of acquittal. It is to be hoped that there may be an early judicial revision of the Plaistow ruling.
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