Feb 25, 2015



I recall how as law students, my friends and I always shared a joke about insanity being the best defence to a criminal charge, especially as it related to crimes of passion like when you catch another man on your wife. For instance, I read about a father who committed murder because a drunk driver drove into his 2 sons killing them instantly. According to the report, the man whose sons had been pushing his car from behind after it broke down along the highway just alighted from the car, saw the carnage, went home, got a gun and shot the drunk driver. The Father was however let go on the legal grounds that he was mad temporarily insane when he shot the driver.

Boy o boy, I haven’t read about that happening in Nigeria before, have you? Please share if you have. Anyway, don’t think the defence of insanity is an automatic “get-me-out-of-jail” card. No way and here is actually how it really works. You see, everyone is presumed to be of sound mind at any time which comes in question, until the contrary is proved (Section 27, Criminal Code). So the burden is on the accused to prove that he is/was mad or insane at the material time.

credits - bible.ca
The law says a person is not criminally responsible for an act if at the time of doing such act, he is in such a state of mental disease or natural mental infirmity as to deprive him of capacity to understand what he is doing or to control his actions. However people who suffer from delusions do not come under this category (Section 28, Criminal Code and Section 51, Penal code). So it’s better to say they are were following you from the village and using a remote to control your movements rather than I heard a voice telling me to shoot.

Also note that you don’t prove insanity just by word of mouth, one has to establish facts such as: evidence of past history of the accused; evidence of conduct of the accused after committing the offence; evidence from prison officials who had the accused in custody; medical evidence; evidence showing that insanity is an o`gun idile runs in the family and evidence of relatives with similar behaviour.

So the plea of insanity is not an easy way out of trouble as my friends and I thought, the accused person may still be convicted for culpable homicide and may just be ordered to spend his days in Yaba Left psychiatric hospital taking lagatin injections all day.  

Adedunmade Onibokun, Esq