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Capital Punishment in Independent IrelandA Social, Legal and Political History$
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David M. Doyle and Liam O'Callaghan

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781789620276

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789620276.001.0001

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Psychiatry, Criminal Responsibility and the Tempering of Punishment

Psychiatry, Criminal Responsibility and the Tempering of Punishment

(p.171) Chapter 5 Psychiatry, Criminal Responsibility and the Tempering of Punishment
Capital Punishment in Independent Ireland

David M. Doyle

Liam O’Callaghan

Liverpool University Press

This chapter, concerned mainly with the period between the last execution in Ireland in 1954 and the partial abolition of the death penalty in 1964, examines why hanging fell into disuse in this period. The chapter focuses on one phenomenon in particular: the development in Ireland and beyond of new ideas around criminal responsibility and psychiatry. The arrival, in Irish courtrooms, of the forensic psychiatrist meant that new expertise was brought to bear on judging the sanity otherwise of the accused. This, among other factors, led to an increase in the number of reprieves and called into question the desirability of mandatory death sentences. It was clear that the M’Naghten rules were now dated and that some murderers were of ‘diminished responsibility’ – a term given statutory definition in Britain. In Ireland, by the early 1960s, the commutation of death sentences was now routine and the way was clear for partial abolition of the death penalty.

Keywords:   psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, M’Naghten rules, diminished responsibility

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