The Intersection of Mental Health and Assault Cases

January 26th, 2024
The Intersection of Mental Health and Assault Cases

There is definitely a relationship between mental health and criminal cases, but it is probably not the relationship that you think it is. Recently, in our blog, we have discussed the relationship between criminal behavior and alcohol, and also between criminal behavior and drug use. Alcohol and drug use do not cause criminal behavior, but they contribute to it.

The public generally thinks that mental illness contributes to criminal behavior as well, but that is a myth. And because of what is portrayed on television and in the movies, people are often afraid of those with mental illness. However, those with mental health problems are much more often the victims of criminal behavior rather than the perpetrators of it. This holds true for assault, murder, and all other criminal acts.

Mental illness is not a predictor of criminal behavior, but it is a predictor of victimization, and not just on the street. Unfortunately, those suffering from mental illness tend to be treated worse than other people in all areas of society, including in the court system and in incarceration.

This subject is always one of intense debate especially in legal circles. The central question is can or should a person be held responsible for committing acts of violence such as assault if the perpetrator suffers from a mental illness. The answer is complicated, or “it depends.”

Under Canadian federal law, we no longer say that someone is not guilty by “reason of insanity.” Now the wording is “not criminally responsible.” However, not criminally responsible is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. And an insanity defence is hard to put together and hard to win. Also, keep in mind that the legal definition of mental illness may be different than the medical one.

Those suffering from mental illness do sometimes commit crimes, and those are the crimes that we hear about in news bites on television. But much more often crimes are committed against those suffering from mental illness, and, that is something that we do not hear about nearly enough.

If you have been charged with a criminal offence, call Gagan Nahal at (604) 527-4769 for a free consultation. And do not make any statements to the police without first consulting your lawyer. 

Gagan Nahal is a criminal defence lawyer based in Surrey, British Columbia, although he has represented clients across Canada. He works vigorously and tirelessly defending his clients. 

If you have any questions about this article or you would like to talk to Mr. Nahal, please call him directly at (604) 527-4769.