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R v Sullivan

[1984] AC 156

Case summary last updated at 11/01/2020 18:03 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case R v Sullivan

 D attacked V while suffering a seizure due to epilepsy that, uncontested by V and supported by medical evidence, caused him to attack without consciousness as to what he was doing. The judge ruled out possibility of an automatism direction but allowed an insanity option. D was convicted. CA AND HL dismissed his appeal since automatism is caused by an external factor whereas insanity is a disease of the mind, therefore, Lord Diplock says, judge was right only to leave insanity as a possible option. The HL, quite acceptably, only dealt with the question of why non-insane automatism was not an option (i.e. because epilepsy is not an outside stimulus), and therefore didn’t say whether the jury ought to have found insanity- thus we don’t know- it seems to fit the M’Naghton rules. HL said that one ought to feel sorry for D but could not find that automatism was an appropriate label. 

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