What was the Criminal Lunatics (Ireland) Act 1838?


The Criminal Lunatics (Ireland) Act 1838 (1 & 2 Vict. c. 27) was an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom, signed into law on 11 June 1838.

It was one of the Lunacy (Ireland) Acts 1821 to 1890.

Refer to Chronology of UK Mental Health Legislation and Criminal Lunatics Act 1800.


The Act provided that when a person was detained under circumstances suggesting that they were of deranged mind and had the intention of committing a crime, then two justices were empowered to call in a physician to examine the suspect. If the physician determined that the person was a “dangerous lunatic” he could be committed to gaol, until either discharged by order of two justices or removed to a lunatic asylum by order of the Lord Lieutenant.

Role of Lord Lieutenant

The Lord Lieutenant was given the power to direct persons under a sentence of imprisonment or transportation be placed in a lunatic asylum, to remain there until certified of sound mind by two physicians, when the Lord Lieutenant could direct their removal. Additionally, they were given a similar power in regard to persons committed for trial.

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