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Attempted suicide shouldn’t be a crime – Lawyer to Supreme Court

Persons who attempt suicide are experiencing mental disability hence the apex court in Ghana must decriminalise “attempt to commit suicide,” a private legal practitioner Mr Christian Lebrechet Malm-Hesse, has said.

In a suit he filed, he said these people should be given psychological treatment rather than being imprisoned.

According to him, Section 57 (2) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29), which makes attempted suicide a criminal offence is unconstitutional.

He contends that a mentally challenged person cannot have an intent (mens rea) to commit a crime.

He argues that the offence of “attempt to commit suicide” cannot be classified as a crime, since the mental element required to make it a crime does not exist.

“A person who has a malfunctioning mind does not have the mind to form a mens rea to commit a crime,” the plaintiff avers.

Mr Malm-Hesse is therefore urging the highest court of the land to declare as unconstitutional Section 57 (2) Act 29

According to him, Section 57 (2) of Act 29 violates Article 15 of the 1992 Constitution (respect for human dignity), Article 17 (freedom from discrimination), and Article 29 (rights of disabled persons).

He is also seeking a declaration that there is no mens rea (mental element) with regard to Section 57 (2) and therefore it sins against Act 29.

It is the Plaintiff’s case that from the copious conditions exemplified from the numerous medical experts, a person seeking to commit suicide albeit attempt is suffering the ill-functionality of the mind,” he argues.

Also, the plaintiff argues that suicide is a global crisis which ought not to be tackled in such a manner that does not impose punishment on people who attempt to do it.

“It is a global problem and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has with regard to attempted suicide expressed the view that punishing with imprisonment a behaviour consequent to either a mental disorder or a social difficulty gives a completely wrong message to the population, and that the WHO encourages efforts for the prevention of suicide,” he said.

it is insensitive and counter-productive to imprison someone who has survived a horrific experience such as attempted suicide.

“A person who is severely suicidal or sick, or someone who has lost all hope of surviving, tries to end his life and his effort is futile, the judicial prosecution will guarantee that he is prosecuted for failure per section 18 (1) of Act 29 and section 296 (4) of Act 30.

This person being militated by the pain of his condition cannot be said to be in his or her right state of being to satisfy intention,” the plaintiff contends.

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