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Justice For Psychopaths: Punishment Or Therapy

The interplay between psychiatry and law presents a fascinating study of human behaviour. Criminal law, a practical and rational normative science, passes judgment on human conduct, drawing upon theoretical sciences.

One of the most pressing issues in this intersection is the understanding and handling of mental diseases, particularly those that instigate criminal behavior. Psychopathy, one of the most dangerous mental diseases, poses both theoretical and practical challenges to criminal law and the justice system.

Psychopaths are often misunderstood due to a lack of information and awareness, leading to their portrayal as monsters rather than patients. This perspective needs to shift towards a more therapeutic approach, benefiting not only society and human rights but also the psychopaths themselves.

Countries like the U.K. and U.S.A. have made strides in this direction, enacting special laws for mentally ill offenders. These laws recognize that such individuals are not criminals in the traditional sense, but victims of their own conditions, often unaware of their disease and the consequences of their actions.

There is an urgent call for mass awareness about this disease and a separate sentencing policy for psychopaths. This approach acknowledges the unique challenges posed by psychopathy and aims to create a more informed and compassionate society.

Prof. Gellin has aptly observed that "it is not the humanity within criminal but criminality within human being which needs to be curbed through effective administration of criminal justice"

This article is about why we should help psychopaths get better instead of just punishing them. It talks about what countries like the USA and UK are doing to help psychopaths. It also looks at how the USA, UK, and India have different views and ways of punishing psychopaths. The article gives us a look into what goes on in a psychopath's mind before, during, and after they commit a crime.

It talks about how psychopaths affect the criminal justice system. At the end, the article asks if we should treat psychopaths or punish them like other criminals. It highlights the need to teach people about this so that we see psychopaths as part of our society, not as outsiders.

Trying to understand crime is a tough job because it needs knowledge from many different areas. The reasons why crimes happen are a big part of the problem. We need to talk about this more, study it more, and take more action in society, government, and the courts.

We need to remember that just punishing all kinds of wrongdoings won't really solve anything. To really control crime, we need to understand why it happens and what other things might affect the person who did it.

The ideas of criminology and penology can help guide us in making rules for how to deal with these people. When we use both of these together, we can better understand crime because it helps us see the reasons and causes behind it.

"Ignorance of law is no excuse". There's a saying that not knowing the law is not a good enough reason to break it. This means that everyone is expected to know and follow the laws where they live. Psychiatry and law both look at how people behave, but in different ways. Psychiatry tries to understand why people act the way they do, while law is about making sure people behave in a certain way.[1]

Netflix's show "You" is a gripping but scary story about a serial killer named Joe Goldberg, who is a real psychopath. The story is all about how Joe becomes so obsessed with his girlfriend that he ends up killing many people, all in the name of 'love'. A psychopath is someone who does really bad things, like committing violent crimes, and doesn't feel bad or guilty about hurting others. They have a mental disorder that makes them unable to feel basic human emotions. Even though a psychopath knows what they're doing, they don't understand how terrible it is.

Psychopaths understand what's right and wrong, but they don't feel it emotionally. To them, laws are just rules that people are made to follow. Modern law isn't about forcing people to do things. It's really about showing us how to behave in a good and moral way.

Psychopaths don't have the emotional ability that usually makes people act in a good way. Studies in psychology and neuroscience are showing more and more that emotions play a big role in how we decide what's right and wrong, and how we act. This is something that psychopaths struggle with.

In the UK and USA, they've made laws specifically for psychopaths. These laws not only identify psychopaths but also give ways to help them. But in India, psychopaths are usually just punished. This is because there isn't enough recognition of how important emotions are in making moral decisions and acting morally. Even the 'Mental Health Care Act, 2017', which was made to protect the rights of people with mental illnesses, doesn't consider people with less serious illnesses and personality disorders.

A psychopath is a person who has a mental disorder that makes them act in harmful ways and not care about others. They often do things that are against the law or violent, and they don't feel bad about it. They also have trouble forming deep, meaningful relationships with others. In other words, a psychopath is someone who can't feel certain emotions and acts without thinking about the consequences.[2] They don't take responsibility for what they do and often blame others for their actions. Here are some key traits of psychopaths:
  • They don't care about laws or social rules
  • They don't respect other people's rights
  • They don't feel guilty or regretful
  • They often act violently
Psychopaths are people who can be very charming and manipulative. They use these traits, along with intimidation and sometimes even violence, to control others for their own personal gain. They love seeking thrills and aren't scared of anything. Punishments don't really affect them because they don't fear the consequences. But it's important to remember that when psychopaths commit crimes, it's because of their condition, not because they have any other motive. They're not criminals in the traditional sense, but rather victims of their own mental state. That's why it's more beneficial to treat them rather than punish them.

Definition of crime: To justify that the psychopaths need to be treated rather that punished, it is important to understand the concept of crime, criminal responsibility, and punishment and legal and medical issues pertaining to the psychopaths. According to Sir William Blackstone, "a crime is an act that is capable of being followed by criminal proceedings, having one of the types of outcomes or punishment known to follow these proceedings." A crime is any violation of the law of the land, which has an impact on the society at large.

A crime affects the general public and is usually disapproved by the society. In order to constitute a crime, an act must be committed, which is legally forbidden or is antisocial in behaviour (actus reus). It is also important for the individual committing the crime to have a criminal intent (mens rea). After the fulfilment of all this, it can be said that a crime has been committed.

Psychopaths are treated the same as other criminals in court. But, they can only get psychiatric help if it's considered during their sentencing. In criminal law, it's important to prove that the person intended to do the crime and had a guilty mind while doing it.

For psychopaths, they don't have a guilty mind because of their condition, not because they intended to do wrong. The idea of having a guilty mind, or "mens rea", is a key part of a crime. Without it, there's no crime. This is why an act done by someone who is insane can't be considered a crime, because you can't prove they had a guilty mind. So, the act alone isn't enough to say a crime was committed, there needs to be proof of a guilty mind too.[3]

Deep Into The Minds Of Pyschopaths

Real-life psychopaths aren't like the ones you see in movies. They don't have a genius mind like Hannibal Lecter, and they certainly don't eat people. But they can be very sneaky and can easily trick their victims. They can quickly turn from charming to violent, and they don't feel any guilt for their actions.

Psychopaths are often linked to criminal behaviour and violence. They don't care who they hurt, and their actions can range from stealing someone's life savings to blaming their victims for their own wrongdoings. When a psychopath commits a crime, it's usually well-planned and not just a spur-of-the-moment decision. They're born with a sadistic nature and are excellent liars. They might claim they lost control or were angry, but in reality, their crimes are cold and calculated.[4]

Studies show that psychopaths have certain traits, like a lack of fear, a need for stimulation, and a tendency to break social norms. They're known for their lack of empathy, shallow emotions, manipulative behavior, and egocentricity. They also have a low tolerance for frustration, unstable relationships, and a parasitic lifestyle.

Psychopaths are very smart and they harm others without any reason. Their actions are driven by sadistic feelings. They're fit to stand trial and they confess to their crimes without hiding anything. They're not affected by punishments, which makes it seem pointless to punish them at all. They live without any fear of the consequences of their actions.

Psychopaths Need To Be Treated Not Punished, Why?

Punishments are usually given to make the person scared and stop them from doing bad things again. But it gets complicated when the person isn't scared of the punishment. Psychopaths are usually fearless and don't care about what happens because of their actions. They can't understand the crime they've done, because they did it due to their mental illness, not because they wanted to do something bad. For them, violent and cruel acts are normal and they think it's the right thing to do.

"All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person" (UNICCP, 1966)

Sir Walter Moberly, while accepting the definition of punishment given by Grotius, suggests that punishment presupposes that:
  1. What is inflicted is an ill, that is something unpleasant
  2. It is a sequel to some act which is disapproved by authority
  3. There is some correspondence between the punishment and the act which has evolved it
  4. Punishment is inflicted, that it is imposed by someone's voluntary act
  5. Punishment is inflicted upon the criminal, or upon someone who is supposed to be answerable for him and for his wrong doings

Four Main Justifications for Punishment:

  1. Deterrence
  2. Incapacitation
  3. Restoration
  4. Rehabilitation
Psychopaths don't feel guilt or regret after doing something wrong, so punishing them doesn't really make sense. They're not scared of what might happen to them and they don't understand that what they did was a crime. This is because their actions are a result of their mental illness, not a guilty mind.

Usually, everyone who commits a crime is given a medical and mental test. The problem with psychopaths is that they seem fit to stand trial. They also don't hide anything and admit to their crime right away without feeling any guilt or remorse. This can lead people to see them as terrible criminals who feel no regret for their actions.

Because of this, it should be standard procedure to give these people a medical test, including a psycho-analysis, to confirm their mental state.

Legal Provisions In Different Countries

United Kingdom

English law recognizes that crimes committed by psychopaths are due to their mental illness. So, instead of punishing them, it's more logical to send them to rehabilitation centres for treatment.

After World War II, many therapy centers were set up to treat psychopaths. The oldest one is Henderson Hospital, which has had some success in treating patients with serious mental disorders.

HMP Grendon Underwood, which was established in 1962, deals with prisoners who have moderate to severe personality disorders. High-security hospitals like Ashworth, Rampton, and Broadmoor have special programs for people with severe personality disorders who pose a high risk.[5]


Over the years, different American states have made laws specifically for psychopaths. For example, the 'Sentencing Reform Act' was passed in 1984 with sexual psychopaths in mind.

California made a law for psychopathic offenders back in 1939. Then in 1995, California and several other US states passed special laws for psychopaths.

Most of these laws allow the state to keep psychopaths in custody, especially those who have committed horrific sexual crimes, until they are completely cured of their illness.[6]

Indian Judiciary With Psychopaths Over The Years

Nithari Rape Case

The Nithari rape case was a horrifying example of extreme cruelty. A man named Surinder Koli kidnapped, raped, and killed a woman. He didn't stop there, though. He also mutilated the woman's body, beheaded her, and threw her head and clothes into a drain. The court said this case was one of the "rarest of the rare". But surprisingly, none of the reports mentioned that Koli was a psychopath. He was found guilty and sentenced to death, but in 2015, his sentence was changed to life in prison because of a delay in deciding on his mercy petition. The accused had said: "I still have an urge to kill".

This case really should have made the Indian legal system think about including psychopathy in their justice system.

Raman Raghav Case

This case is about a notorious psychopathic killer named Raman Raghav who terrorized Mumbai in the 1960s. After he was caught, he was diagnosed with severe schizophrenia. Because he was found to be mentally ill and couldn't be cured, his sentence was changed from death to life in prison.

Darbara Singh Case

Darbara Singh was a serial killer who targeted children, mostly from migrant laborer families, in Kapurthala and Jalandhar, India. He was first arrested in 1996, and by 2004, he had killed up to 25 victims. The police found the remains of 17 children, but Darbara couldn't remember where he left the others. He didn't feel sorry for his crimes and held a grudge against migrant laborers because a laborer's daughter was the reason for his first arrest. District Police Chief Gurpreet Singh Bhullar described him as a psychopath. A fast track court sentenced Darbara Singh to death for his crimes.

Dandupalya Krishna Case

Dandupalya Krishna was the head of a feared gang called the Dandupalya gang. They were active in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh from 1995 to 1999. The gang was responsible for the brutal murders of at least 42 people, using crowbars and other weapons. Krishna was a psychopath, which means he didn't have any emotions. In 1999, all the gang members were sentenced to death and were also fined Rs. 30,000 each. The accused had said: "I liked to hear the last sounds of life draining away. It is exciting to hear the gurgling sound that emerges from the throat after I slit it".[7]

In a recent case in Kota, Rajasthan, a court gave the death penalty to a killer who showed no emotions and committed terrible crimes against women after satisfying his sexual desires. The man had already murdered three women before and had even escaped from jail while serving a life sentence for murder. He then committed another terrible murder.

The judge of the POCSO Court, Kailash Chand Mishra, said in his order that there was no chance of the man improving. It's clear from cases like this that psychopaths are often not scared of punishment. In some rare cases, the death penalty might be given to people who can't be treated, but punishment alone can't get rid of psychopathy.

The "Nithari case" is a well-known case in India that involved a man named Surendra Koli. He killed many children and sometimes even ate their flesh. This behavior is not normal, and it's hard to tell if it's because of a mental illness or a psychological disorder. Koli showed signs of being a psychopath, and because his crimes were so horrific, he was sentenced to death.

In India, there's no specific law for dealing with psychopaths, who are actually victims of their own minds. It's important for police, lawyers, and judges to understand how a diseased mind works. To make sure everyone gets fair justice, regardless of their mental state, the criminal justice system should get help from psychologists and use special procedures for judging or treating psychopaths.

Psychopathy is a very serious mental disease. Psychopaths are dangerous and commit terrible crimes, but they need proper treatment, not just punishment. Life imprisonment and the death penalty won't cure psychopaths of their disease. They know they're committing crimes, but they don't understand why. They don't feel guilty or sorry for their crimes. They'll admit to their crimes and want to do them again because their disease makes them want to commit crimes.

For example, when Koli was arrested, he said, "I still have an urge to kill." This is a common sign of a psychopath. That's why we should have sympathy for them. But the judicial system can't ignore this, because even though they might not understand the law because of their disease, they still need to be punished.[8]

In India, there are some laws for people with mental illnesses. For example, section 84 of the IPC deals with the law of insanity. It uses the term 'unsoundness of mind' instead of insanity. But this law is outdated because it doesn't protect people whose behavior is abnormal because of their minds, or who have partial delusions, irresistible impulses, or impulsive behavior.

There are some provisions related to psychopaths in some personal laws and in the Evidence Act. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, Chapter XXV talks about the procedure for the trial of a mentally ill person. But these laws are still not enough to deal with the problems related to psychopaths. The courts say that we need a more comprehensive and progressive approach to the laws related to psychopathic behavior.

Conclusion And Suggestion
Nobody is born as a psychopath. Everyone has a unique mind. Some people grow up in a good environment with good morals, while others grow up in difficult situations. These tough situations can make children develop traits like lack of empathy, lack of guilt, and shallow emotions, which are known as callous-unemotional traits.

These children have a higher chance of becoming psychopaths when they grow up. They're more likely to show anti-social behavior like bullying and aggression. They're less likely to react to positive social signals like happy faces, and they're also less likely to recognize when someone is scared. The best way to help these individuals is through therapy, not by increasing their punishment. This is because psychopaths aren't scared of punishment, and a patient should be treated, not punished. So, it's very important for our system to understand psychopathy better, because right now, it's not given enough attention in our legal system.

People often use the term "psycho" to describe anyone with a mental illness, without really understanding what a psychopath is. It's important to know that there's a small difference between a psychopath and other types of criminals like serial killers, rapists, and sociopaths. This misunderstanding needs to be cleared up, and this can only happen if the judiciary and legislature decide to make special laws for different kinds of mental illnesses.

In our current judicial system, psychopathic behavior is not well understood. The existing laws only talk about insanity, unsoundness of mind, and schizophrenia, and all judgments are based on these concepts. Any small change in the behavior of the accused after a clinical test is labelled as a mental illness. Many past cases have been dismissed by labelling the accused as mentally unstable.

Even the "elite" don't have a proper understanding of psychopaths and have preconceived notions about them. People think that a psychopath is a demon or evil and will harm anyone around them. They don't realize that psychopaths behave the way they do because of their disease, not because they want to. Psychopathy is one of the most dangerous mental illnesses and should not be ignored.

We need to make a change. Cases involving horrific crimes by psychopaths should be judged with psychopathy as the main factor. This problem can be solved by making psychopathic behaviour an important part of investigations and the justice system.

In conclusion, psychopaths are complex, dangerous, and seriously mentally ill criminals or patients. Even though the crimes they commit are terrible, they don't have a guilty mind behind them. The reason they commit crimes is their serious mental illness. When trying these individuals, it's important to focus on their disease and decide their punishment accordingly.

We should use a therapeutic approach rather than a punitive approach when dealing with psychopaths. They should be kept in mental hospitals or asylums for treatment because they are very dangerous. However, the therapeutic approach can only be used when people are educated enough about this disease, otherwise, it becomes very difficult to implement.

These individuals need to be given justice, and this can only be done through therapy, not by punishment. This is because psychopaths are fearless and won't be scared of the punishment given to them, and a patient should always be treated, not punished.

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