CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY AND DEFENCES FOR PERSONS WITH DIMINISHED MENTAL CAPACITY UNDER NIGERIAN LAW: TOWARDS A PARADIGM SHIFT

Paul Adole Ejembi

Abstract


This article seeks to analyze the dynamics of criminal responsibility and apposite defences accused persons suffering from mental infirmities can have recourse to in the course of criminal trial. The article employs the qualitative research methodology to achieve its epistemological objectives. The article finds that Nigerian criminal law is bereft of the principle of diminished responsibility. Diminished responsibility is a defence in which an accused person, who proves that his or her mental functions are impaired ( even though this does not amount to insanity in the strict sense of the word), is held not to be fully criminally responsible. The plea, if upheld by the court, mitigates punishment from murder to manslaughter or to complete exculpation in some jurisdictions. Diminished responsibility is applicable as a valid defence in other jurisdictions such as Britain and the United States of America. The article recommends the exigency of a paradigm shift in Nigerian criminal jurisprudence towards the adoption and full recognition of the principle of diminished responsibility so as to engender an inclusive legal defence for persons with diminished mental capacities within the purview of the country’s domestic criminal justice system.

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