The presumption in law is in favour of a person's sanity, even though he
may be deaf, dumb, or blind.
The terms 'insanity,' 'lunacy,' 'unsoundness of mind,' 'mental
derangement,' 'madness,' and 'mental alienation or aberration,' are
indifferently applied to those states of disordered mind in which the
person loses the power of regulating his actions and conduct according
to the ordinary rules of society.
he reasoning power is lost or
perverted, and he is no longer fitted to discharge those duties which
his social position demands. In some cases of insanity, as in confirmed
idiocy, there is no evidence of the exercise of the intellectual
faculties. It is probable that no standard of sanity as fixed by nature
can be said to exist. The medical witness should decline to commit
himself to any definition of insanity. There is no practical advantage
in attempting to classify the different forms of insanity.
According to English law, madness absolves from all guilt, but in order
to excuse from punishment on this ground it must be proved that the
individual was not capable of distinguishing right from wrong in
relation to the particular act of which he is accused, and that he did
not know at the time of committing the crime that the offence was
against the laws of God and nature.
Lunatics are competent witnesses in relation to testimony, as in
relation to crime, if they understand the nature of an oath and the
character of the proceedings in which they are engaged. The judge, as in
the case of children, examines the lunatic tendered as a witness as to
his knowledge of the nature and obligation of an oath, and, if
satisfied, he allows him to be sworn.
A person, if suffering from such a state of mental unsoundness as to be
unable to take care of his property, may be placed under the care of the
Court of Chancery. The Court then administers his property, and
otherwise allows him entire freedom of action.
With regard to the care of lunatics, no person is allowed to receive
more than one lunatic into his house unless such house is licensed and
the proper certificates have been signed. One patient may be taken
without the house being licensed, but the usual certificates must in all
cases be signed, and the Lunacy Commissioners communicated with. If a
person receives another not of unsound mind into his house, and such
person becomes subsequently insane, the person so keeping him renders
himself liable to heavy penalties, unless the legal certificates are at
once procured and the Commissioners of Lunacy communicated with.
At common law it appears that a lunatic cannot be placed in an asylum
unless dangerous to himself or to others, but under the Lunacy Acts the
placing of a madman in an asylum is considered as a part of the
treatment with a view to the cure of the patient.