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?