Can I use my mental health as a defence?

Mental health problems cannot generally be used as a defence, though they may affect your sentence if you are found guilty.

But there are some exceptions:

  • The court may decide that you’re unfit to plead.
  • The court may find you not guilty if you were legally insane at the time you committed the offence. If this happens, the judge has to decide whether you still have mental health problems. If they decide you do, they can send you to hospital, or make a supervision order (which means that you will have to get support or treatment). If you no longer have mental health problems, they can to give you an absolute discharge.
  • If you are charged with murder and can show that you had an ‘abnormality of the mind’ when you committed the crime, the court will convict you of manslaughter instead. This could mean less punishment. This is called ‘diminished responsibility‘.

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