Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

examined on behalf of the petitioners and ninety-one on behalf of the respondents, while the hearing lasted for thirty-four days. For the purpose of assisting the Master or jury in arriving at a decision, provision is made for the personal examination of the alleged lunatic by them on oath or otherwise, and either in open court or in private, as may be directed. The proceedings on inquisition are open to the public. When a person has been found lunatic by inquisition he becomes subject to the jurisdiction in lunacy, and remains so (unless he succeeds in setting aside the verdict by a “traverse”—a proceeding which ultimately comes before, and is determined by, the King’s Bench Division in London or at the assizes) until his recovery, when the inquisition may be put an end to by a procedure technically known as “supersedeas,” or by his death. The results of the inquisition are worked out in the Lunacy Office. The control of the estate, and, except where he was found incapable of managing his property only, of the person of the lunatic is entrusted to committees of the estate and person, who are appointed by, and accountable to, the Master in Lunacy, and whose legal position corresponds roughly with that of the tutors and curators of the civil law. The committee of the estate in particular exercises over the property of the lunatic, with the sanction or by the order of the Master, very wide powers of management and administration, including the raising of money by sale, charge or otherwise, to pay the lunatic’s debts, or provide for his past or future maintenance, charges for permanent improvements, the sale of any property belonging to the lunatic, the execution of powers vested in him and the performance of contracts relating to property.

The alternative method of bringing a person of unsound mind under lunacy jurisdiction was created by § 116 of the Lunacy Act 1890. The effect of that section briefly is to enable the Master, on a summons being taken out in his chambers and heard before him, to apply the powers of management and administration summarized in the last preceding paragraph, without any inquisition, to the following classes of cases: lunatics not so found by inquisition, for the protection or administration of whose property any order was made under earlier acts; every person lawfully detained, within the jurisdiction of the English courts, as a lunatic, though not so found by inquisition; persons not coming within the foregoing categories who are “through mental infirmity arising from disease or age” incapable of managing their affairs; persons of unsound mind whose property does not exceed £2000 in value, or does not yield an annual income of more than £100; and criminal lunatics continuing insane and under confinement.

In Scotland the insane are brought under the jurisdiction in lunacy by alternative methods, similar to the English inquisition and summary procedure, viz. “cognition,” the trial taking place before the Lord President of the Court of Session, or any judge of that court to whom he may remit it, and a jury of twelve—see 31 & 32 Vict. c. 100, and Act of Sederunt of 3rd December 1868—and an application to the Junior Lord Ordinary of the Court of Session or (43 & 44 Vict. c. 4, § 4) to the Sheriff Court, when the estate in question does not exceed £100 a year, for the appointment of a curator bonis or judicial factor.

The powers of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland with regard to lunatics are generally similar to those of the English Chancellor (see the Lunacy Regulations (Ireland) Act 1871, 34 & 35 Vict. c. 22, and the Lunacy (Ireland) Act 1901, 1 Ed. VII. c. 17; also Colles on The Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act.

The main feature of the French system is the provision made by the Civil Code (arts. 489-512) for the interdiction of an insane person by the Tribunal of First Instance, with a right of appeal to the Court of Appeal, after a preliminary inquiry and a report by a family council (arts. 407, 408), consisting of six blood relatives in as near a degree of relationship to the lunatic as possible, or, in default of such relatives, of six relatives by marriage. The family council is presided over by the Juge de Paix of the district in which the lunatic is domiciled. This system is also in force in Mauritius.

There are provisions, it may be noted, in Scots law for the interdiction of lunatics, either voluntarily or judicially (see Bell’s Principles, § 2123). The German Civil Code provides for insane persons being made subject to guardianship (vormundung), on conditions similar to those of Scots and French law (see Civil Code, §§ 6, 104 (1896, 1906), 645-679). In the United States the fundamental procedure is an inquisition conducted on practically the same lines as in England. (Cf. Indiana, Rev. Stats. (1894) §§ 2715 et seq.; Missouri, Annot. Code (1892) §§ 2835 et seq.; New Mexico, General Laws (1880) c. 74 §§ 1 et seq.).

4. Asylum Administration.—Asylum administration in England is now regulated by the Lunacy Acts 1890 and 1891. Receptacles for the insane are divisible into the following classes: (i.) Institutions for lunatics, including asylums, registered hospitals and licensed houses. The asylums are provided by counties or boroughs, or by union of counties or boroughs. Registered hospitals are hospitals holding certificates of registration from the Commissioners in Lunacy, where lunatics are received and supported wholly or partially by voluntary contributions or charitable bequests, or by applying the excess of the payments of some patients towards the maintenance of others. Licensed houses are houses licensed by the Commissioners, or, beyond their immediate jurisdiction, by justices; (ii.) Workhouses—see article Poor Law; (iii.) Houses in which patients are boarded out; (iv.) Private houses (unlicensed) in which not more than a single patient may be received. A person, not being a pauper or a lunatic so found by inquisition, cannot, in ordinary cases, be received and detained as a lunatic in any institution for the insane, except under a “reception order” made by a county court judge or stipendiary magistrate or specially appointed justice of the peace. The order is made on a petition presented by a relative or friend of the alleged lunatic, and supported by two medical certificates, and after a private hearing by the judicial authority. The detention of a lunatic is, however, justifiable at common law, if necessary for his safety or that of others; and the Lunacy Act 1890, borrowing from the lunacy law of Scotland, provides for the reception of a lunatic not a pauper into an asylum, where it is expedient for his welfare or the public safety that he should be confined without delay, upon an “urgency order,” made if possible by a near relative and accompanied by one medical certificate. The urgency order only justifies detention for seven days (the curtailment of this period to four days is proposed), and before the expiration of that period the ordinary procedure must be followed. “Summary reception orders” may be made by justices otherwise than on petition. There are four classes of cases in which such orders may be made, viz.: (i.) lunatics (not paupers and not wandering at large) who are not under proper care and control, or are cruelly treated or neglected; (ii.) resident pauper lunatics; (iii.) lunatics, whether pauper or not, wandering at large; (iv.) lunatics in workhouses. (As to pauper lunatics generally, see article Poor Law.) A lunatic may also be received into an institution under an order by the Commissioners in Lunacy; and a lunatic so found by inquisition under an order signed by the committee of his person.

The chief features of English asylum administration requiring notice are these. Mechanical restraint is to be applied only when necessary for surgical or medical purposes, or in order to prevent the lunatic from injuring himself or others. The privacy of the correspondence of lunatics with the Lord Chancellor, the Commissioners in Lunacy, &c., is secured. Provision is made for regular visits to patients by their relatives and friends. The employment of males for the custody of females is, except on occasions of urgency, prohibited. Pauper lunatics may be boarded out with relatives and friends. Elaborate provision is made for the official visitation of every class of receptacle for the insane. The duties of visitation are divided between the Commissioners in Lunacy, the Chancery Visitors and various other visitors and visiting committees. There are ten Commissioners in Lunacy—four unpaid and six paid, three of the latter being barristers of not less than five years’ standing at the date of appointment, and three medical. The Commissioners in Lunacy, who are appointed by the Lord Chancellor, visit every class of lunatics except persons so found by inquisition. These are