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R v Burgess

[1991] 2 QB 92

Case summary last updated at 11/01/2020 18:12 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case R v Burgess

D, in his sleep, wounded V. Judge made a direction of insanity and D was acquitted. CA rejected V’s appeal that the judge erred in his direction since D was clearly suffering from an, albeit unlikely to recur, mental disorder that caused him to act in the way he did. It was not an external factor and therefore he was right not to consider non-insane automatism. Lord Lane said there was clearly sufficient medical evidence of automatism and that this automatism was insane. 
 
Problems: Insanity in legal sense clearly differs from medical or “ordinary” sense, so that juries can misinterpret what insane in a court context could mean, leading to injustice: Possibly the case in Sullivan. This also contradicts principle of fair labelling. In Burgess it is humiliating for D to have had to accept that he was insane and therefore incapable when in fact he was not- he probably had some other type of condition, or was simply having a vivid dream combined with sleep-walking. 

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