Mental health and homicide in medieval English trials

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In medieval England, the crown pardoned persons guilty of homicide if they were found to be mentally impaired at the time of the crime. Judges and juries carefully investigated and described the forensics of mental health defendants in the court record. Those suffering from temporary mental health issues, often a result of an illness, were examined under this same set of laws. Most often the guilty were remanded into the hands of family or those of a keeper, a type of temporary guardian, or they were sent to gaol (medieval incarceration in jail or prison) while they awaited their pardons. Some were kept in gaol until mentally stable enough to return to society. Those cases not dismissed because of an obvious mental health condition (as those of persons with childlike behaviour from birth might be) followed a pattern of having the defendant found guilty of the crime, and, because of a lack of intent, they were pardoned and not physically punished other than possibly spending time in incarceration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-32
Number of pages32
JournalOpen Library of Humanities
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • General Arts and Humanities
  • Sociology and Political Science


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