I am somewhat saddened to see the reaction if US authorities to someone having a mental health issue is to charge them with a criminal offence.
Saddened, but not surprised because that seems to be the way mental health issues are handled in the US. Luckily, the Judge has at least asked for a report into his mental health to see if he’s fit to stand trial, but it’s not looking good.
What is the point of the criminal justice system after all? Firstly, it is a deterrent. If people know or fear they will be caught and punished, it will hopefully make them less likely to commit crimes.
Would the threat of punishment have made any difference here? No, because he was not thinking straight. I would imagine very few people have sat around thinking “I’d better not have a mental health incident today, because I’m doing something important. Better put it off until tomorrow instead.”
And the justice system can be used to try to stop someone who has already committed a crime from doing so again, by either keeping them away from potential victims (i.e. lock them up in prison, bail conditions/ASBOs) or by some sort of remedial work such as dealing with an underlying drug or alcohol problem. Will that make any difference here? Not likely. Unless there was some underlying cause, such as a bizarre and unexpected prescription drug interaction, I can’t imagine he’ll be cleared bit to fly by the FAA again unless they’re really sure whatever triggered this has been fixed.
Threatening to prosecute someone for having a breakdown, whatever their job, just smacks of unproductive vigilanteism.