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Capacity Defences Notes

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Capacity Defences

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These are generally treated as excuses. They deny MR entirely, essentially claiming that D was not morally in control of his actions.

INFANCY

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The age of criminal responsibility in England is 10. Children under the age of 10 are incapable of committing crimes (known as doli incapax).

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There used to be a rebuttable presumption that children under 14 were doli incapax, but this was removed by Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (position clarified in T).

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England has been criticised for its relatively high age of criminal responsibility. In Scotland it is 12, France 13 and Spain 16.

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Note that when a person has a child commit a crime for them, the child is treated as an innocent agent and the person procuring the offence will be found guilty of the offence proper.

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Both Keating and Lord Steyn have expressed concern that the UK's stance on the age of criminal responsibility may breach Art 40.1 of UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. NON-INSANE AUTOMATISM

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The extent of this defence is limited to situations in which D has acted in a manner out of his control, caused by external factors. Lord Denning said that its use should be restricted to acts done while 'unconscious, and to spasms, reflex actions and convulsions'.

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Note that the loss of control must be complete.

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LEADING CASE: AG's Ref. 2 of '92 - D was a lorry driver who was driving for a long period of time. He entered a trance-like state, swerved onto the hard shoulder and then swerved back onto the road. Because he swerved back, it showed that he retained a certain degree of control - the defence requires complete loss of control.

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Self-induced states of automatism will not provide a defence - Bailey. INSANITY/INSANE AUTOMATISM

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Note that insanity is relevant in two contexts: as a substantive defence, but also with regard to fitness to plead/stand trial. Fitness to plead:

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Rule laid down in Criminal Procedure (Insanity) Act 1964. Note that D may be detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 if found unfit to plead. It may, however, result in a supervision order or an absolute discharge.

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