Not Guilty By Reason Of Insanity

It’s not very often at all, that I could highlight the use of an insanity defence.  They are comparatively, very rare indeed.  You will probably recall the incident at a Birmingham mosque in June of last year where a man stabbed worshippers before turning on the police officers who answered the 999 call and were on scene within four minutes of it being made.  PC Adam KOCH rightly received praise from senior officers and across the community after he continued in his efforts to detain Mohamoud ELMI after he had been stabbed.

PC KOCH was very humble following the incident, offering his thanks and his praise to those present at the mosque in their efforts to assist to detain the offender and in assisting him pending the arrival of paramedics.  If you look at the West Midlands Police press release issued yesterday, there are various photos and links to help you better understand the incident and hear the officer himself describe the incident.  There is also an interview with the East Birmingham Policing commander, Chief Superintendent Alex MURRAY.  I’m sure we’re all glad that PC KOCH has returned to health and is back at work doing the job that we can all see the man clearly loves.  I’ve never met him, but it’s my privilege to supervise young, keen police officers just like him, working hard to keep us all safe and I’m sure we’re glad he’s back at it.

Here’s the briefest of summaries of the legal issues involved, with links to other blogs that cover the topics in more depth —


Yesterday, Mr ELMI pleaded not guilty to two counts of attempted murder on the grounds on insanity.  This was a legal issue that was given to the jury and they took two days to consider the evidence of potential insanity.  It again goes to show, that insanity is a legal issue, not a medical one – regardless of the opinion of forensic psychiatrists in this case, the question of whether Mr ELMI was insane was entrusted to twelve men and women from the community in which this event occured who are not bound to find grounds for an insanity defence satisfied.

In the end, they ruled that it was and the defendant was given the only outcome that court was likely to given – a restricted hospital order.  This ensures indefinite detention in a secure hospital after the jury ruled that his actions did amount of offences of attempted murder and unlawful wounding.  In other words, he “did the acts” of which he was accused – he stabbed the victims – but not fully responsible in law, because he was —

  • Suffering from a “defect of reason”; AND
  • Owing to “disease of the mind”;
  • Did not know the nature and quality of the act; OR
  • Did not know that what he was doing was wrong.

Some people charged with serious offences choose not to put forward an insanity defence because in some cases, the outcome will be more serious for them than other likely outcomes.  It does not follow that everyone suffering from even a serious mental disorder will be legally insane and it is interesting to contrast this case with that in London of Christopher HAUGHTON who was fully convicted of stabbing police officers whilst seriously mentally ill. He was tried and sentenced to a restricted hospital order having been fully convicted of the offences, despite his illness.

However here, charges of attempted murder were always likely to lead to significant sentences, if proved and he has entered an insanity defence after pleading not guilty.  It means Mr ELMI will be subject to a restricted hospital order which ensures ongoing detention until such time as the clinicians in a medium secure unit and the Ministry of Justice are satisfied that it is proper to discharge him.  Once released, he will remain subject to conditional discharge which ensures he can be quickly returned to hospital if necessary and will become subject to multi-agency supervision through local Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements.  But all of that is long way off yet.

IMG_0053IMG_0052Winner of the President’s Medal from
the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Winner of the Mind Digital Media Award.

6 thoughts on “Not Guilty By Reason Of Insanity

  1. I read that if a person suffering from a Psychiatric disorder..Disease of mind, stopped medication of their own choice and commits a criminal act was liable to be prosecuted as sane of mind, or can the defense use as mitigation that due to the persons disease of mind the person would be unaware that by stopping medication the person would not be liable to imprisonment..Regards

  2. I remember watching a documentary about the Swedish twins on the M6 – Ursula and Sabina Eriksson. Am I wrong to remember, one of those pleaded temporary insanity and had the murder charged reduced to manslaughter as a result? The condition she claimed to have suffered was known as ” a puff of madness ” but they used a French phrase that I don’t remember.

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