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Defences - Insanity & Automatism


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Insanity and automatism
These defences apply where a person is unable to control what they're doing. If Diminished Responsibility is being used, the prosecution may raise this defence as DR deals with mental functioning. The prosecution may prefer to use insanity as opposed to DR due to the indefinite institutionalisation of D, if the defence succeeds. Worthy noting that the defence can be raised by the prosecution, the defence and the judge.
Insanity
The lack of voluntary behaviour due to an inherent mental condition or illness; the 'continuing danger' theory will be explored when considering this.
McNaughten (1843)
Gave us the rules for insanity, which are as follows: 1) 'Defect of reason'; 2) Disease of the mind (this is a legal term, not a medical term); 3) Not knowing what D was doing, or not knowing that it was 'wrong'.
Clarke
Regards a defect of reason. In this case, D went into a supermarket, picked up several items and put them into her bag, then left without paying for them. At her trial for theft, she claimed she had no intention to permanently deprive due to absent-mindedness. It was explained by Ackner J that it referred to people who were 'deprived of the power of reasoning' - D's conviction was quashed by CA as D was not insane, she just simply wasn't guilty due to a lack of mens rea.
Kemp
D suffered from arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) which restricted the flow of blood to the brain, causing blackouts. When blacked out, he committed the actus reus of GBH when he hit his wife with a hammer. The question arose whether arteriosclerosis supported the defence of insanity or automatism. It was decided that it was insanity, as the mind's faculties had been impaired.
RUM
Legally, a disease of the mind has been defined as Reasoning, Understanding and Memory.
Sullivan
D had suffered from epilepsy since childhood, and occasionally suffered fits. One day he was sitting in a neighbour's flat with a friend, V. The next thing D remembered was standing by a window with V lying on the floor with head injuries. D charged with assault, and the trial judge ruled that his seizure amounted to a disease of the mind. D plead guilty (to avoid hospitalisation) and appealed - both CA and HoL upheld his conviction. Found that "likelihood of recurrence irrelevant... provided that it subsisted at the time of commission".
Burgess
D and his friend, V, were in D's flat watching videos. They both fell asleep but during the night, D attacked V while she slept, hitting her with a video recorder. D was charged with s20 and pleaded automatism, but the trial judge ruled he was pleading insanity and the jury agreed. CA dismissed D's appeal. Insanity due to sleepwalking being an internal factor. Recurrence is not a prerequisite to establish "disease of the mind".
Bratty
D strangled a girl with her stocking. He claimed at the time he was suffering from psychomotor epilepsy. Held that D is entitled to raise the defence of automatism if the jury rejects the defence of insanity. An act is not involuntary simply because the defendant does not remember it or because he was unable to control an impulse to do it. Lord Denning stated that "any mental disorder which has manifested itself in violence and is prone to recur is a disease of the mind." - guilty.
Windle
D's wife constantly spoke of committing suicide. One day, he killed her by giving her 100 aspirins. He gave himself up to the police and said "I suppose they will hang me for this" - despite D suffering from mental illness, because he said that he knew that what he was doing was legally wrong, and therefore couldn't raise the defence of insanity. Guilty of murder.
Criminal Proceedings (Insanity and Unfitness to Plead) Act 1991
Produced a new set of options for the special verdict of insanity. This includes a hospital order (with or without restrictions), guardianship order, supervision and treatment order, or an absolute discharge. For murder, it is unchanged (ie, indefinite hospitalisation). Before this act, people would plead guilty to minor crimes if the defence of insanity were to be raised.
s4 Criminal Procedures Act 1994
Statutory requirement that D has insanity at the time of the crime, as well as insanity at the time of the trial.
Automatism
Defined in the case of Bratty. Aside from that case's definition, there is an alternative definition: a loss of control by the mind over the movements of the muscles. Examples of this include reflex action, convulsions, sleepwalking (sometimes) or a concussion.
Bratty
Defines automatism as an "inability to control actions resulting from external causes".
Hill v Baxter
D was behind the wheel when his car collided with another; at his trial on a charge of dangerous driving, he claimed he had been overcome by an unknown illness and had been unconscious. Held: Some credible evidence must support a claim of sudden illness or concussion, they said, usually going beyond D's mere assertion, but the burden of proof thereafter is on the prosecution to show that the act was a voluntary one. Guilty.
R v T
D took part in a robbery with others. When arrested she could remember very little, she had been raped a few days earlier. A psychiatrist diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder, and suggested she had not at the time of the robbery been acting with her conscious mind. The judge allowed a defence of automatism, but the jury rejected it.
Broome v Perkins
D, in a hypoglycemic state, drove home erratically from work (hitting another car at one point). Afterwards he could remember nothing about the journey, but seeing the damage to his car, reported himself to the police - medical evidence suggested that someone in his state could complete a familiar journey, without being conscious of doing so. Even though the knowledge of what was going on around him would be imperfect, he would be able to react to sufficiently steer and operate the car, even though not very well. As D had not lost full control, he was not suffering from automatism - guilty.
A-G Ref - No 2 of 1992
D drove his lorry for six hours and hit a stationary vehicle on the hard shoulder, killing two people. He claimed automatism because he was 'driving without awareness'. Held: automatism occurs when there is a total loss of voluntary control. Impaired or reduced control is not sufficient. D had some control of the lorry, he was able to steer and was partially aware of what was going on the road ahead of him. Not guilty (but should have been).
Self Induced Automatism
(Intoxication) - where the defendant deliberately induces the state of automatism the defence is not available because D is reckless, unless there was an unforeseeable risk which arises from deliberately intoxicating oneself.
Bailey
D had diabetes, and took his insulin and drank sugared water. He did not, however, eat. He assaulted the partner of his ex-girlfriend, and said he hit him to teach him a lesson for associating with the girl. D claimed he acted in a state of automatism caused by hypoglycaemia. Held that D was being sufficiently reckless as he took an unjustified risk. Guilty.
Hardie
D took valium tablets in an attempt to calm himself down, and ended up setting fire to a wardrobe. Successfully acquired the defence of self-induced automatism due to unforeseen results.
Rabey
A privy council case (therefore not binding, but persuasive). D's girlfriend broke up with him and so he battered her. He argued that this was an external cause. It was held that a "disassociative state" resulting from "...the ordinary stresses and disappointments of life which are the common lot of mankind..." could not amount to a disassociative state. Guilty.
Parks
A privy council case (therefore not binding, but persuasive). D had carried out a killing and an attempted killing whilst asleep. The Canadian Supreme Court found that his defence was automatism. During the trial the defence had called expert witnesses in sleep disorders, whose evidence was that sleepwalking was a rare form of sleep disorder.