Amnesia for criminal offences

Psychol Med. 1984 Aug;14(3):581-8. doi: 10.1017/s003329170001518x.


Nearly 10% of a sample of men charged with a variety of offences claimed amnesia for their offence. The amnesia occurred only among those who had committed violence and was most frequent following homicide. All the amnesics had a psychiatric disorder, four having a primary depressive illness and the remainder being almost equally divided between schizophrenia and alcohol abuse. None of the amnesias had any legal implications. The circumstances of the offences suggested a variety of mechanisms to account for the amnesia, including repression, dissociation and alcoholic black-outs. Psychological defence mechanisms were probably of some importance, even when alcohol was an important factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Amnesia / psychology*
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Crime*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Forensic Psychiatry
  • Homicide
  • Humans
  • Insanity Defense
  • Male
  • Schizophrenic Psychology
  • Violence