Under English law the defences of insanity and automatism play an important role in the avoidance of Liability for crimes committed in a state of abnormal mental functioning. The reasons for these defences is that these people should be treated and not punished
Definitions of Insanity and Automatism
The defence of Insanity concerns that the accused was insane at the time of his alleged crime but is mentally fit to plead at trail. The definition of insanity has never been defined in statute but is defined By the House of Lords case of M’Naughton 1843 where the house held for insanity to apply the accused needs to be; “Labouring under a disease of the mind that causes a defect of reason and ...view middle of the document...
In the case of Windle 1953 the word wrong was held to a be legally wrong . In that case the defendant had poisoned his wife and stated “I suppose they will hang me for this” because he knew the consequences of his act he was held to know it was legally wrong.
The defence of automatism gets its most prevalent definition from the case of Bratty v Attorney General for northern Ireland 1963 where automatism was defined; “as an which is done by the muscles without any control by the mind such as a spasm, a reflex action or a convulsion; or an act done by a person who is not conscious of what he is doing such as an act done while suffering from concussion”
To secsefully plead the defence of automatism the defendant must successfully meet three requirements and they are;
1. He/she Suffers from a complete loss of control
2. That is Caused by an external cause
3. The automatism must not be self-induced
As automatism is based on involuntary actions of the defendant then he must suffer complete loss of control or consciousness rather than a reduced ability to exercise control or partially impaired consciousness.In Broom v Perkins 1987 the Court of Appeal decided that automatism requires a complete loss of control in this case defendant maintains probably steering and braking forces movements were not entirely voluntary and automatism would not be available.
To relay on non-insane automatism then the defendant must show that his automaton state was due to causes of the external kind, if his automatic state occurred due to internal factors then he cannot rely on this defence.
In Hill v Baxter the court of appeal gave some examples of what constituted an external cause such as being hit by a stone being hit by a sudden illness or the famous analogy of being attacked by a swarm of bees.
In R v Quick it was held that when a defendant suffers a state of Hypoglycaemia it can be held to be an external cause in this case the court of appeal also states “a Malfunctioning of the mind of transitory effect caused by the application to the body of some external factor such as violence, drugs, including anaesthetics, alcohol and hypnotic influences cannot fairly be said to be due to the disease. In R v T 1990 it was held by Southan J that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was capable of satisfying the factor laid down in Quick that states it must be an external cause.
Insanity can only be differentiated in one way from automatism and that is on Characteristic of the External kind(Internal External test) this internal external test has caused many problems as it is poorly defined in what actually constitutes a characteristic of the eternal external kind. This causes problems in that the boundaries between the two defences are not clearly demarcated. This problem is highlighted by various different medical conditions where it is difficult to ascertain whether it constitutes an external or internal cause; the most prevalent of these conditions is diabetes...