Friday, July 11, 2014

Man with severe dementia convicted of sexual offences against children

Yesterday the Daily Mirror told us:
A Labour peer facing more than 20 allegations of historical child abuse looks set to avoid prosecution after doctors said he was unfit to be quizzed because he has dementia.
Which makes this 2010 story from the Western Morning News intriguing:
A Devon man has been found guilty of abusing six under-age girls in a trial held in his absence at Exeter Crown Court. 
Jurors yesterday unanimously found that Michael Collingwood, now 69, of Tedburn St Mary, near Exeter, committed 23 sex offences, including raping one girl. 
Judge Paul Darlow instructed the jury to formally enter not guilty pleas to the other six sex offence allegations. 
Jurors heard the trial in Collingwood's absence after being told he suffers from severe dementia. 
The jury forewoman, giving her verdicts, was required to say she found Collingwood "did the act charged" rather than being "guilty", due to him not standing trial. 
They were told, after the verdict, that he is currently in hospital under a Mental Health Act order, and his future will be decided at a further hearing.
There may be some subtleties here, in that it appears from the report that Collingwood was well enough to be questioned when these offences were investigated the previous year.

But it does appear that someone with dementia can still be tried for sexual offences against children.

Is the Mirror story inaccurate? Or are peers treated differently from commoners?


Pete said...

Not sure if it's a subtlety but 'did the act charged' is the verdict in cases where the defendant is deemed unfit to plead - usually because of a mental health condition or because they are too young. Mental Health Cop has a post on this: So yes- I guess he could be tried in absentia - but what to do with him if the jury found he had done 'the acts charged'?

Lang Rabbie said...

I think there are some subtle differences between the law north and south of the border so I'm treading gently here.

My quick Googling suggests that in England the "did the act charged" form of words comes from the Criminal Procedure (Insanity) Act 1964 and is only used where the defendant has first been found "unfit to plead".

The practical effect is the same as a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

"The court shall either—

(a)make an order that the accused be admitted, in accordance with the provisions of Schedule 1 to the Criminal Procedure (Insanity and Unfitness to Plead) Act 1991, to such hospital as may be specified by the Secretary of State; or

(b)where they have the power to do so by virtue of section 5 of that Act, make in respect of the accused such one of the following orders as they think most suitable in all the circumstances of the case, namely—

(i)a guardianship order within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 1983;

(ii)a supervision and treatment order within the meaning of Schedule 2 to the said Act of 1991; and

(iii)an order for his absolute discharge."

So it then becomes an interesting semantic point whether you can argue that someone has been "convicted" under this scenario if you would not use that phrase about someone found to be insane.

wolfi said...

Hi Jonathan!

The news of the series of sexual abuse scandals in Britain has made it to Germany - there's a blog that usually reports on conspiracy theories (9/11 etc) that has a detailed report on it - for those here who can read German:

"The power of the pedophile network in Britain's show business and politics.