Monday, July 13, 2009

Drunkenness is nothing but voluntary madness

"Drowning your sorrows" with alcohol is akin to putting out a fire with gasoline. There is a proven link between excessive alcohol consumption and depression and schizophrenia. And it's nothing compared to what heroin will do with your mind once your last high has become ancient history.

So, when a violent man with drug and alcohol problems is brought before the bench, the Defence will often suggest that he has (for example) bi-polar disorder and so we should refrain from banging him up so that he can get treatment.

This seems reasonable, until you consider that maybe his mental problems are actually a drug/alcohol induced depression that will depart/reduce when he gets himself off the booze and the pills. Maybe he's just a violent man who drinks and his lawyer is trying to "play the system".

Magistrates are not legal experts, but we have an experienced legal adviser we can call on. What was more significant in my most recent session was that we're not mental health experts either, but often we will have to make decisions that would make Sigmund Freud himself sweat.

A large number of our clients have mental problems and all we Magistrates have are (a) The Sentencing Guidelines (b) experience and (c) compassion and integrity.

That didn't feel like nearly enough today.

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