Perceptions of Psychopathy and Criminal Responsibility
Power, Jordan P.
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In Canada, a person who performs an illegal act that is deemed to be the result of a mental disorder is eligible for the not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder (NCRMD) defence. In recent years, some researchers have argued that the presence of psychopathy may be sufficient for an individual to be considered not criminally responsible for his or her actions. As a result, the present study examines public opinion on this issue, as public opinion and policy change are inevitably related. A sample of 296 participants (224 women, 72 men) completed an online survey that assessed general attitudes toward the NCRMD defence, as well as perceptions of psychopathy as it relates to the defence. On average, participants viewed psychopathy as a mental illness, yet psychopaths were not believed to be eligible for the NCRMD defence and they were still considered responsible for their negative actions. Present findings also suggest that exposure to the types of arguments researchers have presented concerning a psychopath’s criminal responsibility could influence public opinion. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.