Australian Lawyer Caught on Video Stealing Two Paintings From Gallery But Avoids Conviction With Amnesia Claim

There is an interesting ruling out of Australia where lawyer Michael Gerard Sullivan, 54, has succeeded in avoiding a conviction for theft. That would seem rather surprising since Sullivan previously pleaded guilty after being captured on CCTV taking the two paintings of the Katoomba Fine Art Gallery in December 2008. However, Sullivan claimed amnesia and Judge Jennifer English agreed with the diagnosis and declined to record the conviction.

Sullivan said that amnesia was behind his work as an art thief. His lawyers backed up the claim with two psychiatric reports which found that he had dissociative amnesia. He said that he did not remember this actions.

The condition is defined as

“mental illnesses that involve disruptions or breakdowns of memory, consciousness, awareness, identity, and/or perception. When one or more of these functions is disrupted, symptoms can result. These symptoms can interfere with a person’s general functioning, including social and work activities, and relationships….With this disorder, the degree of memory loss goes beyond normal forgetfulness and includes gaps in memory for long periods of time or of memories involving the traumatic event. . . . Dissociative amnesia is not the same as simple amnesia . . . With dissociative amnesia, the memories still exist but are deeply buried within the person’s mind and cannot be recalled. However, the memories might resurface on their own or after being triggered by something in the person’s surroundings.

While there is a medical basis for the diagnosis and Judge English clearly concluded it was genuine, it is a handy condition to have documented for, let’s say, a trip to the Louvre in Paris?

Source: ABC

12 thoughts on “Australian Lawyer Caught on Video Stealing Two Paintings From Gallery But Avoids Conviction With Amnesia Claim”

  1. Normally I don’t read article on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to take a look
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  2. Waldo,

    My qualifications in judging the use of DSM in legal matters is null. Maybe yours is larger.

    But I think there is something called a fugue, when the
    conscious mind is not in action when actions are taken. Check on that and see if you think it has any relevance here.

  3. It seems that the condition makes you forget certain events. Does it also cause you to do things as well (like stealing artwork), kinda like a temporary insanity defense? Otherwise, I don’t see the relevance. You may have no memory of your crime, but that doesn’t make you any less culpable for having committed it. Assuming it was scientifically possible, could I avoid conviction for a crime by having my memory of it erased? Of course not!

  4. Couseau would end up carrying them out the door showing his badge and saluting at the man’s car door.
    The french style salute. You know, when they then go on to swat a fly annoying them with the exposed palm.

  5. I dream like that most nights.

    My productions have more involved dialogue (impossible ones for me to write) and of course no costs for staging so the scenery is wild: molehills which become precipitously high Alps, out of envy, while I ride them up to the clouds, etc.

    Good try Peter. The abandoned warehouse gets old.

    DSM is DSM. Any port in a legal storm.

    Speaking of warehouse productions, one of the best was based on the andy warhol era and “Walk on the Wild Side” music. Not a fan, but it was good.

  6. Hmmmm…. AN excellent defense….. But will it work in the US….. Good lawyering often involves good relationships with the judge and prosecutor……. Just saying…..

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