Claiming killers suffer mental health issues seems like a travesty of justice

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Pradip Rodrigues

Ayanle Hassan Ali the man who in 2016 attempted to murder three soldiers at the Canadian Forces recruitment centre in North York was found not criminally responsible for his actions as it was determined he suffered schizophrenia. He has already been cleared to leave the secure unit of his Hamilton hospital this year on passes into the community, including forays that aren’t even directly supervised.

After the attack in 2016, Ali told paramedics that “Allah” had sent him “to kill people.” He believed soldiers were a “legitimate target” due to Canada’s military action in Muslim countries, furthermore his life purpose was to become a martyr.

In 2011 Richard Kachkar ran from a homeless shelter, jumped into a snowplow and ran over Ryan Russell, a police officer who was killed.

Kachkar too was found not criminally responsible for the crime since he was in a psychotic state at the time and recently the court granted him a conditional discharge. While the court looks upon Kachkar sympathetically and has all but absolved him of any wrongdoing, Christine Richard, wife of the victim made it clear that she thought this was a travesty of justice and said the man would remain a murderer in her eyes. You have to feel her pain.

If Faisal Hussain, the Danforth mass shooter was alive, chances are he too would be given a free pass by the justice system and would in a few short years be living with his family. While there has been sympathy for the two of his victims and the many other injured victims of this mass shooting, there has been overwhelming sympathy for Faisal Hussain who is said to have a history of mental illness and has been cast as a victim much like the people whose lives he disrupted. All it took was the mental health narrative put out by the family soon after the horrific shooting which steered the conversation toward mental health and gun control.

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So even if the investigations later confirm that he was inspired by some nihilistic online propaganda urging attacks or heard voices in his head commanding him to go on a killing mission, it doesn’t matter because he was not responsible for his actions.

While mental illness should be factored in when dealing with an individual who has maimed, killed or harmed someone, there are worries that lawyers and social activists are overplaying the mental illness card.

I would hazard a guess by stating that most murderers and killers through history have quite possibly suffered some form of mental health issues. How else could someone in his right mind decide to pick up weapon and go on a killing spree?

The Mississauga-based parents of Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy the man convicted of plotting ISIS attacks against busy New York City landmarks insists their son was a mentally ill teenager and doesn’t deserve to spend the rest of his life in prison, however horrible his crimes.

Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, pleaded guilty in October 2016 to conspiring with ISIS operatives in the failed plan to bomb Times Square and the city’s subway system.
But both say they firmly believe their son’s history of mental illness and drug addiction made him vulnerable to manipulation — first by ISIS recruiters, and then by the intelligence agents who were tracking him.
According to media reports, a study of 55 terror attacks in the West involving 76 individuals were found to have been possibly influenced by the Islamic State, 27.6% had a history of apparent psychological instability, a percentage comparable to that found in the general population.

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The Islamic State-linked terrorism experienced in the West recently has reignited debates about the connection between mental disorders in terrorist activity. It has been established that the Islamic State and other terror operatives actively recruit, those with mental health issues. They are the ones most susceptible to being influenced by radicalism of all kinds.

Many atrocities committed by lone wolf actors and other perpetrators have been found to have histories of mental disorder.

They tend to have higher rates of schizophrenia than in the general population, as well as certain other disorders.

But there have been exceptions where playing the mental health card hasn’t worked leaving some to wonder why. Take the example of Alexandr

Wait a minute, did he say his son was bullied and perhaps that was reason that sent him down that murderous path? Perhaps that might have worked with the judge had there been school records that proved he suffered depression and suicidal thoughts as a result of the bullying.

Imagine the howls of protests that would ensue if that was the case and the court found Bissonnette not criminally responsible for killing six innocent Muslims in a mosque? There would be calls to ensure that curbs be placed on the misuse of the mental health card.

I suspect that in the years to come, more and more mass killers and other anti-social elements will be viewed as victims that society failed, especially if they happen to be people of color or people coming from dysfunctional families or neighborhoods infested with crime and drugs.

Dr. Jonathan H. Pincus, chair of the department of neurology at Georgetown University and the Veterans Administration Hospital, and author of the book Base Instincts: What Makes Killers Kill? in a magazine article said that of the criminals he’d examined, “all the violent ones were damaged.”

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Pincus and his long-time collaborator, psychiatrist Dorothy Lewis, from New York University, came to the conclusion that it was a lethal combination of childhood abuse, neurological disturbances and psychiatric illness that led someone to murder. They also found that many of these individuals were victims of physical abuse and head trauma as children. In two of their studies, in fact, they found that 100% of their subjects had suffered previous head trauma, from one cause or another.

At this rate most jails will have to be converted into mental institutions and asylums. And instead of having judges awarding justice, you might soon have a panel of mental health experts evaluating evidence of abuse suffered by the ‘criminal’ while he or she was growing up and the sentence could well be a short stint at a mental institution was some rehabilitative therapy. So how are the victims and their families supposed to feel knowing that the individual or individuals who upended their lives are being treated sympathetically and blame has been placed on the Canadian foster care system, or the courts or institutionalized racism.

Who knows perhaps even Bruce McArthur the cold-blooded murderer who dismembered over half-a-dozen victims in Toronto may one day be found suffering some trauma growing up which could quite possibly be used to explain his actions.

Our concept of justice is probably going to change in the future and I am afraid we aren’t ready for it. -CINEWS

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