UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Educating potential jurors about the not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder defence Le, Marina Tam


It is a fundamental principle of the Canadian criminal justice system that a person must be able to understand whether his or her actions were wrong in order to be found guilty of an offence. Thus, punishment would be legally inappropriate if people who commit criminal acts are under the influence of mental illnesses where they are incapable of appreciating the consequences of their actions. Despite these legal principles, the majority of the general public have negative perceptions about the Not Criminally Responsible on account of Mental Disorder (NCRMD) defence, in part because they have little knowledge about the defence, but also because they believe it is a loophole in the justice system that allows some offenders to avoid punishment and continue to pose a danger to society (Maeder, Yamamoto, & Fenwick, 2015; Silver, Cirincione, & Steadman, 1994). Possessing these pre-existing beliefs and having a lack of knowledge about the NCRMD defence may limit people’s ability to make objective verdict decisions. The present research investigated the impact of numerous factors on people’s perception and application of the NCRMD defence. The current studies examined how educating people about the NCRMD defence influences attitudes towards this defence (Pilot Study). The current research also examined the influence of perpetrator race (Study 1) and opinions from a mock jury deliberation (Study 2) on people’s attitudes towards the NCRMD defence and verdict decisions.

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