Murder is the most malevolent of acts by humans. Not only does the slaying of a man, woman or child destroy a life, but it ravages the lives of all those associated with the person who has been killed, and foments the collective angst of the community. But the mad who kill are placed in a different socio–legal category to that of ?normal′ murderers. Those regarded as insane, either at the time of their improbity or after the event, are propelled into a distinct and discreditable stratum of deviancy. They are ′unreasonably′ dangerous. These miscreants are construed as ′double–trouble′ – mad and bad! Is there justifiable (if exaggerated) anxiety about dangerous mentally disordered people being ′loose′ in the community? Is there a genuine need to protect both society at large and the mad? Does public concern about the homicidal tendencies of the mentally disordered warrant emphatic social intervention to protect both potential victims and perpetrators? What are the merits and consequences of post–liberal mental health policies and laws, introduced at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st century in response to a declared failure of previous approaches to the care of mentally disordered people and the protection of the public? How have the psychiatric disciplines of medicine and nursing contributed to a period of unprecedented public alarm in the 1990s about the mentally disordered?
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