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- * Common Law defence
- * Narrowly applied nowadays
- * In the past, people chose this defence instead of insanity (so wouldn’t be put in mental institute)
- * Committing the AR of a crime involuntarily
- * General defence
- * Complete Defence
- * Definition come from Bratty (1963)
- * Mental capacity is presumed
- * Burden of Proof on D
- * D had to raise defence
- * Evidence to support (ideally medical)
- D strangled gf with tights during epileptic fit
- Lord Denning in this case defined automatism as being:- ‘an act which is done my muscles without any control of what he is doing such an act done whilst suffering from concussion OR an act done by a person who is not conscious of what he is doing such as an act done whilst suffering from concussion’
- IT IS NOT:
- * ‘Automatism simply because the D doesn’t remember doing it’
- * ‘Automatism simply because D didn’t intend or foresee the consequences’
- * ‘Automatism simply because the D can’t control their urges’
R v T (1990)
- Raped a couple of days earlier and then commits a burglary
- The defence of Automatism was available however they jury didn’t believe her.
Killed husband after he revealed he had abused kids Automatism available – Walked free – This seems very unjust
- D attacked GF after failing asleep watching film
- Sleepwalking: said to be caused by the emotional stress he was suffering- Held not automatism as it was internal causes really
Element 1 – The act was involuntary or ‘Total Loss of Control
- In order to rely on the defence of automatism, D must show that there was a complete loss of voluntary control.
- D must have lost all powers of control
- *Broome v Perkins (1987)
- *Ag’s Reference (No2) (1992)
Broome v Perkins (1987)
- Diabetic driver, who had a hypoglycaemic reaction, drove erratically and crashed.
- The defence failed because evidence that he had braked and steered – HAD NOT LOST COMPLETE CONTROL
Ag’s Reference (No2) (1992)
Lorry driver who was driving ‘without awareness’, drifted into hard shoulder, killing 2 people. – Failed because he has some partial control
Element 2 –Caused by an external behaviour
- The total loss of control must be caused by an external factor
- * Hill v Baxter
- * Quick (1973)
- *Hennessey (1989)
- Includes hypnotism, anaesthesia and concussion
- The courts have held that an automotive state caused by normal stresses and strains of ordinary life will not allow you the defence of non-insane automatism- Burgess
- The courts do accept automatisms caused by extreme or extraordinary stress – R v T (1990)
- Psychiatric nurse who was a diabetic had a hypoglycaemic reaction because he took insulin without food and attacked a patient.
- Cause of automatism was an external factor so the defence of automatism was available
- Diabetic failed to take insulin for many days. Drove car whilst disqualified and claimed no knowledge of what done.
- Cause of automatism was an internal factor so only defence available was insanity
- * Anomalous approach treating 2 people with effectively the same condition very differently.
- * Quick had not taken his medication on a number of occasions and for this reason, if the case was heard today he probably wouldn’t get the defence. (Bailey 1983)
Element 3- Self-Induced Automatism
- The defence of non-insane automatism is not available if the automotive state was self-induced through voluntarily taking alcohol or drugs.
- In those cases the correct defence is intoxication. If the automotive state was caused by something other than alcohol or drugs, the availability of the defence will
- depend on whether D was aware that there was a risk that their behaviour might cause them to get into such a condition.
- * Bailey (1983)
he was depressed and took some of gf Valium tablets before setting fire to wardrobe. He said no recollection of act - CA quashed conviction as normal effect of Valium is tranquliser so D not reckless.
D diabetic and taken insulin but not eaten enough before hitting his ex-gf new boyfriend with an iron bar - CA upheld D's conviction as state of self-induced.
Evaluation and Reform
- * The current rules are very inconsistent and illogical because people with the same condition can be treated very differently
- *People suffering with diabetes and epilepsy fall outside of the rules of non-insane automatism and come under the rules of insanity
- * Some say abolish internal and external factors
- *Draft criminal code (1989) suggested all people suffering with diabetes and epilepsy should be able to rely on the defence of non-insane automatism
- * Some do argue that the rules on non-insane automatism are right. People with conditions that could re occur should not be allowed to walk free as it protects society. Perhaps those who commit crime in an automotive state should be given supervision and treatment orders rather than walk free
Sneezing will be sufficient for automatism