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Tasmania - Glossary Term

Moral Imbecile (1920 - 1963)

Glossary Term

Moral imbecile is a term used to describe a person with an intellectual disability who apparently had criminal tendencies that could not be deterred by punishment.


Section 5 of the 1920 Mental Deficiency Act defines this term as:

persons who from an early age display some permanent mental defect coupled with strong vicious or criminal propensities on which punishment has little or no deterrent effect.

The Act established the Mental Deficiency Board to supervise children and adults diagnosed with moral imbecility and other categories of so called mental deficiency. It also established the State Psychological Clinic which diagnosed children and adults as mentally defective.

Officials detained some sexually active young unmarried women under this category.

Related Organisations

Prepared by: Caroline Evans