Wednesday 22 November 2017

Misleading reporting - R v Douglas Addison

The BBC reported on the case of R v Douglas Addison heard at the Crown Court in Exeter - BBC News 21st November.  The report states:

"A husband has been found guilty of murdering his 88-year-old wife who was suffering with dementia.  Douglas Addison, 89, attacked Mary Addison with his walking stick and smothered her at their retirement bungalow in St Merryn, Cornwall, in February.  The former police officer, who also has dementia, was unable to cope with looking after his wife of 67 years.  He has been detained in a mental health facility.  Addison could not attend Exeter Crown Court or enter a plea due to his condition."

Mr Addison is NOT guilty of murder
A more accurate report is in The Telegraph  20th November where it is reported that - "A retired police officer, who refused help to care for his dementia stricken wife, suffocated her in the bedroom of their bungalow, a court has heard.  But Douglas Addison, 88, is not in the dock to answer the charges, because he too is suffering from dementia and has been deemed too ill to stand trial.  Instead a jury at Exeter Crown Court is hearing a trial of facts to determine if Mr Addison committed the acts of which he is accused."

 What the Crown Court did was to hold a hearing in which the jury is asked to decide whether the individual "did the act or made the omission" of the offence.  The law is in the Criminal Procedure (Insanity) Act 1964 as amended - see section 4A.  A fuller explanation of this may be read in the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) judgment in R v Wells, Masud, Hone and Kail [2015] EWCA Crim 2 which this blog looked at in the different context of the Lord Janner case - (Here).

"In the event that a defendant is found to have done the act or made the omission, there is no determination of a criminal charge and no question of conviction or punishment: see the analysis in R v M [2002] 1 WLR 824.  Only the act or omission has been proved and there has been no investigation or attempt (even less, a successful attempt) to prove all the constituent ingredients of the offence charged.  The powers of the court are therefore not those which follow a conviction but are restricted to measures designed to treat, rehabilitate and support while, in the most serious cases, providing protection for the public.

The Addison case is a very sad one and highlights something of the terrible condition that dementia can be.

1 comment:

  1. How on earth did the BBC so mangle the facts?
    Would it not have been a far more informative news item if the facts had been presented correctly?