Author Topic: The Mental Deficiency Act  (Read 3683 times)

Offline SP

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The Mental Deficiency Act
« on: November 24, 2009, 12:01:56 PM »
I was in the Death Penalty topic, and Ian Brady came up as an example of someone better off being killed. I knew he was under psychiatric care in Ashworth rather than  in prison. Whilst checking this on Wikipedia I discovered that he was only declared criminally insane in 1985, so they may still have executed him if the Death Penalty was in force. Also on the same page was a link to the John Straffen whom Brady has replaced as the longest serving living prisoner (Straffen died). Straffen was a multiple murderer spare the noose because he was a registered mental defective.

At this point in the tale Wikipedia suffers from a missing page - so I had to fall back on google to find the following piece on The Mental Deficiency Act 1913:

The Mental Deficiency Act 1913

Mental defectives were created by the Mental Deficiency Act of 1913 and abolished by the Mental Health Act of 1959. They were divided into three different categories: the "imbeciles" and "idiots" who would nowadays be considered to have a learning disability and the more nebulous group of "feeble-minded". The latter included people of average intelligence who had somehow fallen by the wayside, the "socially inefficient" as they were called in those days.

They often arrived at their diagnosis of mental deficiency via extreme childhood adversity and institutional care or the courts. In 1920 there were about 10,000 mental defectives in institutions in England and Wales; by 1946 that number had grown to nearly 60,000 with a further 43,000 under statutory supervision in the community. There were two institutions for "violent and dangerous" mental defectives: Rampton near Nottingham and Moss Side near Liverpool. Usually the inmates of Rampton and Moss Side had been transferred from other mental deficiency institutions and the violence and danger often consisted of self-harm, suicide attempts or window smashing.

In 1927 the Mental Deficiency Act, which applied only to those in whom a defect was supposed to have been present since
birth, was amended to include post-encephalitics, survivors of the encephalitis lethargica pandemic who were sometimes left
with destructive and anti-social tendencies as a result of the illness.

The 1913 Mental Deficiency Act defined four grades of Mental Defective. In each case the condition had to be present "from birth or from an early age".

Idiot ~ were people "so deeply defective in mind as to be unable to guard against common physical dangers"

Imbecile ~ could protect themselves from common dangers, but unable to take care of themselves. Imbeciles were not idiots, but were "incapable of managing themselves or their affairs, or, in the case of children, of being taught to do so."

Feeble-Minded ~ required care to protect themselves. Feeble-minded people were neither idiots nor imbeciles, but if adults, their condition was "so pronounced that they require care, supervision, and control for their own protection or the protection of others" .If children of school age, their condition was "so pronounced that they by reason of such defectiveness appear to be personally incapable of receiving proper benefit from instruction in ordinary schools"

Moral Defectives ~ moral defectives were people who, from an early age, displayed "some permanent mental defect coupled with strong vicious or criminal propensities on which punishment had little or no effect". Unmarried Mothers also became absorbed into this category.

Deficiency and defect are not distinguished. Both imply a lack of something.

The above classification can be compared to the following analysis of mental retardation in the International Classification of Diseases (9th revision - 1975): (Mental retardation is defined as intellectual impairment starting in early childhood.)

317 Mild Mental Retardation
IQ = 50 to 70
synonyms include feeble-minded, moron, high grade defect, and mild mental subnormality

318.0 Moderate mental retardation
IQ = 35 to 49
synonyms: imbecile; moderate mental subnormality

318.1 Severe mental retardation
IQ = 20 to 34
synonym: severe mental subnormality

318.2 Profound mental retardation
IQ under 20
synonyms: idiocy; profound mental subnormality
(There is more to the page above than I have quoted, including the Lunacy Board of Control replacing the Lunacy Commissioners).
This lead me to Moss Side Hospital and its eventual merger into Ashworth - and hence back to Brady.

I thought it was interesting, but would have been a little off topic in the Death Penalty topic. So have we found a classification system for the in-game topic?

Offline The Gulleysucker

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Re: The Mental Deficiency Act
« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2009, 12:16:04 PM »
Yes, seems to be predominantly 318.2 these days. ;)

Whole pile more potential classifications here in Chapter V Mental and behavioural disorders (F00-F99) ..

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