Last week a man in his mid-50s surnamed Cheng was found not guilty of murder at Chiayi District Court after killing a railway authorities officer in July of 2019.
It was reported that he would be subject to a period of mandatory treatment lasting five years.
The judgement handed down in this particular case has caused public outrage against both the professionals participating in the legal process in this case, as well as the current law.
The judge in the first instance cited Article 19 of the Code of Criminal Procedure:“An offense is not punishable if it is committed by a person who is mentally disordered.”
Mr.Cheng was granted release on bail, but his family are currently not able to pay the required amount so secure his bail.
The prosecutor appealed the adjudication to the Tainan high court the following day.
The judge in the case stated that the court verdict was handed down as the defendant has been unable to properly understand his behavior, and was incapable of doing so according to the law.
Not guilty of the most serious charge, Mr. Cheng was, however was found guilty of the offenses of obstructing an officer in discharge of duties as this act was considered intentional, although the murder charge failed under the concept of ‘dolus indeterminatus.’
Is one psychiatrist enough?
The public questioned whether or not the fact that only one psychiatrist examining Mr.Cheng’s mental health in this case was appropriate.
In his ruling, the judge also stated that they had taken into account Cheng’s medical records from 2001, to 2017, at Chimei Hospital.
Cheng was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2010, but had stopped undergoing treatment in 2017.
The psychiatrist in the case reportedly considered that Mr.Cheng suffered from long-term dilution, including on the day when he committed the crime.
And with more supporting evidence backing the psychiatrist, the judge found Cheng not guilty of murder.
In other murder cases involving mental illnesses, the most prominent in recent years was the indiscriminate killing of a four-year-old girl in 2016.
The individual found guilty of the crime was sentenced to life imprisonment.
The main difference between the two judgements can be simplified in three points:
- The killing in the second case was considered intentional.
- The criminal had not suffered from dilution.
- He didn’t show any signs of mental deterioration.
Flaws in social policy
The murder of the railways authority officer also exposed the flaws in current social policy towards mental illnesses, in particular towards schizophrenia.
During his legal process, Mr. Cheng claimed that he couldn’t pay for appropriate medical treatment, so he stopped taking his medication.
The current social security system puts the main responsibilities on continuing said treatment on patients’ families, and also lacks resource integration.
The families of such patients often have to bear the burden of a high proportion of medical expenses and healthcare.
There is no case management that integrates healthcare, employment and social inclusion.
Moreover, nursing houses for those who are mentally ill offer low quality services, which fails to deinstitutionalize, and thus falls short in providing proper psychiatric rehabilitation.
The case in question has revealed a level of social negligence surrounding mental illnesses, as well as incompetence in providing those with mental illnesses with adequate and accurate assistance under the current social policy.