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Should the law go easier on low IQ offenders?

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Should the law go easier on low IQ offenders?

Postby dot dot dot » Wed, 19 Oct 2005 3:22 pm

Interesting...

Oct 19, 2005
Should the law go easier on low IQ offenders?

Mental capacity no excuse if he knows it's wrong, says minister
By Laurel Teo

NO OFFENDER, whether of normal or low intelligence, can be excused entirely from his actions so long as he understands that what he did was wrong.

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NEED TO CONSIDER CIRCUMSTANCES: 'If an offender repeatedly commits an offence knowing full well that what he did was wrong and knowing the gravity of his conduct, the judge may well decide that it is appropriate to give a deterrent sentence...(The judge) may not give great weight to the mitigation argument based on the factor of low intelligence.' -- PROFESSOR S. JAYAKUMAR, Deputy Prime Minister and Law Minister

In making this point yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister and Law Minister S. Jayakumar also dismissed the idea of changing the law to mete out sentences based on IQ or intelligence levels.

What constitutes an appropriate sentence depends on the facts of each case, he said, and is a decision best left to the judge.

He was responding to Mr Sin Boon Ann (Tampines GRC), who asked whether the Government would consider reviewing its criminal laws to differentiate between sentences for convicted people who are of normal intelligence and those with low intelligence.

But Professor Jayakumar said such a proposal would be 'neither desirable nor practical'.

The issue of whether the law should treat people with low IQ differently arose in August, when convicted molester Iskandar Muhamad Nordin appealed, without a lawyer, to be spared the cane.He was given a stiffer sentence instead.

What sparked public debate was that the 18-year-old had an IQ of 58, compared to the 100 that a person with average intelligence would have.

While no direct reference was made in Parliament to that case, Prof Jayakumar gave this assurance: 'No one will be criminally culpable for his actions if his mental capacity is so limited that he did not understand the nature of the act, or what he was doing was wrong.'

He explained the process to determine this. First, accused persons of low intelligence are given psychological assessments during investigations, before they are charged and before they go on trial.

When investigations are completed, the public prosecutor will carefully consider the relevant facts, including mental capacities, before proceeding.

'Those who are charged with an offence are those who knew the nature of their actions and who could appreciate that it was wrong to do what they did,' he said.

After the trial has ended and if there is a conviction, a judge will consider all relevant factors and decide on the appropriate sentence.

How big a factor low intelligence plays in this depends on the circumstances of the individual case, he said.

'For example, if an offender repeatedly commits an offence knowing full well that what he did was wrong and knowing the gravity of his conduct, the judge may well decide that it is appropriate to give a deterrent sentence.'

And the judge 'may not give great weight to the mitigation argument based on the factor of low intelligence', he added.


I followed that case of the 18 year old, who molested girls and has the mental ability of an 11 year old. I also found it a bit weird he got an even stiffer sentence at his appeal...

Tough nut to crack I'd say, as the offenders still pose danger to society.

Should there be laws and sentences based on IQ and/or mental capabilities?

Eric

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Postby Baron Greenback » Wed, 19 Oct 2005 3:42 pm

Most criminal cases require two elements for prosecution (I am talking about UK law here as that is what I know about) Mens Rea & Actus Reus. More simply the mental knowledge about what you are doing & the actual act itself.

If the defence can prove one is missing then there is no crime. For example if you are in a play & shoot someone on stage with what you believe is a blank but someone else has replaced it with a live round although you shot them you didn't have the mens rea part.

So if someone of limited mental capacity does not know they are hurting someone else then they don't have the mens rea. Mens rea for murder is intention to kill or cause GBH.

Justice is usually depicted as having a blindfold on, with scales in one hand & a sword in the other. The blindfold symbolises that all are equal before the law.

Stupidity is not an excuse for crime however & neither is ignorance of the law. So when you say IQ do you mean stupid people or do you mean people who should be in a home? after rambling on I am not sure I really understand the question. bugger :(
"An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools."
Hemingway

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Postby dot dot dot » Wed, 19 Oct 2005 3:46 pm

Spot on Baron.

The article is talking about IQ, whereas myself, I rather think in terms of mental ability, but even then it is a tough nut I guess. The 18 year old had the mental ability of an 11 year old and an IQ of 58, where the average is 100 for his age. :???:

Eric

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Postby KT » Wed, 19 Oct 2005 3:50 pm

ok i know ....i m not adding much value to this discussion, but this topic just made me think of the movie called primal fear 1996 ... edward norton and richard gere .... i enjoyed that one.

alright , please continue with the discussion. :roll:
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Postby Shilo2010 » Wed, 19 Oct 2005 3:56 pm

Interesting topic Eric.
I have nothing to add.

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Postby Saint » Wed, 19 Oct 2005 4:31 pm

What about 10 year olds with quite normal inteligence, should they be dealt with differently than the case mentioned by Eric. I'm really referring to the James Bulger case from 1993.

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Postby Wind In My Hair » Wed, 19 Oct 2005 7:40 pm

from a purely logical standpoint, admitting low IQ as a line of defence opens a whole can of worms. for example, if low IQ mitigates one's guilt and punishment, then the converse must also hold. that those with high IQ should then be more culpable and serve harsher sentences since they knew better than most what they were doing.

and why stop at IQ? a person with more experience should also know better than a less experienced person what he is doing. therefore should older people automatically have greater culpability? then sentences should have a multiplication factor based on age.

and why stop at IQ and experience? shouldn't educated people also be expected to know better than less educated people what they're doing? in which case sentences should have a multiplication factor based on level of education.

so you see, it's a slippery slope and personally i agree with the minister that it should be on a case-by-case basis and the best thing we can do is make sure we have well-trained, impartial, and wise judges.

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Re: Should the law go easier on low IQ offenders?

Postby Wind In My Hair » Wed, 19 Oct 2005 7:48 pm

Eric from the Netherlands wrote:I also found it a bit weird he got an even stiffer sentence at his appeal...

from what i understand, that's got less to do with his mental ability than with the fact that our justice system apparently punishes those who appeal without good grounds, to teach them a lesson for wasting precious legal resources or something along those lines.

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Postby banana » Wed, 19 Oct 2005 9:56 pm

a legal system concerned with bottomeline! whodathunkit!
some signatures are more equal than others

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Postby ringo100 » Wed, 19 Oct 2005 10:02 pm

I think that's one of the most worest things about the justice system, along with the fact you are no entitled to legal representation until the police have finished it's case.

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Re: Should the law go easier on low IQ offenders?

Postby dot dot dot » Wed, 19 Oct 2005 10:44 pm

Wind In My Hair wrote:
Eric from the Netherlands wrote:I also found it a bit weird he got an even stiffer sentence at his appeal...

from what i understand, that's got less to do with his mental ability than with the fact that our justice system apparently punishes those who appeal without good grounds, to teach them a lesson for wasting precious legal resources or something along those lines.


I've heard about that Wimh, and frankly, it disgusts me... :cry:

Eric

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Postby Wind In My Hair » Wed, 19 Oct 2005 11:19 pm

maybe i'm wrong, but i'm sensing some schizophrenia here. on the one hand many laud the low crime rate, yet at the same time decry the system that makes that possible. doesn't anyone see the correlation and the necessary trade-offs? i'm not saying one system is better than another, or that ours cannot be improved, but that it's a cause-and-effect type of package deal.

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Postby dot dot dot » Wed, 19 Oct 2005 11:24 pm

Law can be practiced and justice can be done when still respecting human rights such as access to lawyers I guess? And appeal is a right for every citizen that should be respected by any government as well.

Eric

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Wed, 19 Oct 2005 11:47 pm

Wind In My Hair wrote:maybe i'm wrong, but i'm sensing some schizophrenia here. on the one hand many laud the low crime rate, yet at the same time decry the system that makes that possible. doesn't anyone see the correlation and the necessary trade-offs? i'm not saying one system is better than another, or that ours cannot be improved, but that it's a cause-and-effect type of package deal.


Yes, the low crime rate is laudable. Trade-off's? I don't think it's a matter of trade-off's at all. In countries like the US the problem is with "technicalities!" If you try to be completely PC then you have obvious offenders getting off so they can do it again. What helps to keep singapore low crime in not the legal system but the draconian punishments still used. (Which I'm for - fuel for some of you :mrgreen:)
I wish we had some of the punishments singapore uses in the US, bet our drug problems would diminish rapidly as well as crimes using firearms!

I still say I would rather see a guilty man go free than an innocent man be wrongly incarcerated. But again, as a westerner I place a higher value on human life that most asian countries power holders.

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Postby Carpe Diem » Thu, 20 Oct 2005 8:58 am

Can't agree more with you SMS... In France, and I guess in most of Europe, (part of) the problem comes from the fact that law offenders are not "afraid" of what will happen if they get caught.

Laws do exist, but are not enforced and / or people get released from jail after a few years or even months.

I always tell my friends about the story of the guy who stole about $1000 to taxi drivers and got 10-year sentence... They all look :shock:

Because in France, this guy would have most probably gone through! (in that case I have to say that the punishment is quite harsh, but I still believe it's better than getting nothing and encouraging others to do the same).


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