Are you nuts?  It may just help you when going to Court.

Wednesday , 25, November 2015 Leave a comment

Mental impairment as a sentencing consideration¹

At common law a mental impairment is a relevant consideration for sentencing purposes.


The leading authority is R v Verdins (2007) 16 VR 269² (Verdins), a decision of the Supreme Court of Victoria – Court of Appeal.

In Verdins, the Court unanimously held that mental impairment could be relevant to sentencing in at least six ways.  Mental impairment could:

  • reduce an offender’s moral culpability for the offending conduct
  • be relevant to the kind of sentence that is imposed (and the conditions under which that sentence is to be served)
  • moderate or eliminate the weight afforded to the principle of ‘general deterrence’
  • moderate or eliminate the weight afforded to the principle of ‘specific deterrence’
  • cause a given sentence to weigh more heavily on an offender (as compared to a person who does not suffer from mental impairment)
  • justify the imposition of a lesser punishment if there is a serious risk that imprisonment would have a significant adverse effect on the offender’s mental health.

The fact that an offender suffers from mental impairment does not, of itself, justify the imposition of a lesser sentence. The extent to which an offender’s mental impairment is relevant to sentencing will depend on the nature and severity of the symptoms exhibited by a particular offender and the effect of the condition on that particular offender’s mental capacity.

These factors may be applicable where the offender is shown to have had a mental impairment at the time of the offending, at the time of sentencing, or both.






[1] Source : Maddocks Lawyers accessed 25/11/2015 at [4.18pm]

[2] R v Verdins (2007) 16 VR 269

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