A Maltese lawyer has explained how raising legitimate mental health issues in court can lead to charges being thrown out in a variety of cases.
Without going into any particular cases, lawyer Michele Cardinali broke down just what a major difference successfully arguing that an accused was not in control of their mental faculties at the time of committing the crime can have on a case in an interview on TV show Topik.
“In that case, the element of intent isn’t present and the crime cannot be considered to have been committed by that person with that intention, so that person cannot be punished for that charge… their sentence isn’t just lessened, the person would then be free,’ he said.
The explanation comes as Malta reels from the brutal public murder of Polish national Paulina Dembska, who is believed to have been raped and murdered in Sliema. One Maltese youth, Abner Aquilina, has been detained in connection with this murder – however, police interrogations had to be stopped after experts advised that Aquilina be taken to Mount Carmel for further mental evaluation.
Noting that each crime is made up of both intention and the act itself, Cardinali noted that mental health problems could lead to the accused not fully grasping what they are doing, potentially with the accused not even wanting to commit the acts they did.
In court, the argument that a person did not have the mental faculty to understand what they were doing can be raised, with Cardinali pointing to a case in 2005 overseen by judge Consuelo Scerri Herrera.
In the 2005 case, the accused had openly admitted to a crime, only for the court to appoint four mental health experts to examine him, leading to them finding that the accused didn’t have the faculties to understand the consequences of what he did.
This led the court to revoke his admission, and not accept it. He was then ordered to be placed under custody and receive treatment for his mental health issues.
Cardinali pointed out that in general, this wasn’t too common an argument in court, as the lawyer needs to overcome the difficult task of proving their client didn’t have the mental faculty to understand what they were doing at the time the crime was committed.
As far as the Aquilina case goes, it’s believed that police will charge him for his alleged crimes later this month. However, it remains to be seen how he will defend himself if the case does go to court.
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