A more recent version of these Insanity And Automatism, Self Defense, Duress,Mistake notes – written by Oxford students – is available here.
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Criminal Law Reading session 6 Infancy S.34 Crime and Disorder Act 1998: Abolition of rebuttable presumption that a child aged 10 or over is incapable of committing a crime (I.e. now only children under 10 have this presumption) Insanity and Automatism Criminal Procedure (Insanity and Unfitness to Plead) Act 1991:
S.1: Acquittal on grounds of insanity is not possible except where two or more medical practitioners have submitted evidence and at least one of them is duly approved (NB this means the court approves of them in that they have had special experience in the field). In alignment with previous acts the medical practitioners have to have special experience in insanity field (NB no actual definition of insanity)
S.2: Unfitness to plead is to be determined by a jury in the case of a disability that prevents a person being tried. There must be at least 2 medical practitioners giving evidence, at least one of whom must be duly approved. It has to be determined as soon as the question arises or before the start of the case for the defence. If D has already been acquitted then the question need not arise. Where D is found unfit to plead, the trial will cease and the jury will simply announce either they are satisfied that D did the act/omission when under a disability, or that they are not satisfied that he did the act/omission and D will therefore be acquitted.
S.4: Where CA find that the decision should have been one of insanity/unfitness to plead they can admit D to hospital, make a guardianship order, order absolute discharge, or a supervision and treatment order. Similarly where CA find that D ought not to have been acquitted but found to have done the act/omission under a disability, they can make the orders listed.
M'Naughten (1843) 10 Cl & Fin 2000: D shot and killed V while insane and the HL had to answer whether insanity was a defence. They said that it was: LCJ Tindall said "to establish a defence on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused as labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or, if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong." The question is to be left to the jury and the burden of evidence is on the defence. Also, where D is insane so as to misunderstand the circumstances but is otherwise fine, the court will judge him according to the circumstances as he believed them to be e.g. if D insanely believes that V is trying to kill him and D kills V in self-defence he is not liable. If D insanely believes
that V has insulted him and therefore kills him, then he is liable. NB dissenting, Maule said that such a defence couldn't be created without parliament's approval. Hill v Baxter 1958] 1 QB 277: D ignored a road sign that said "halt" and carried on, causing his van to crash. He was charged with dangerous driving. D said he had had a "black out" and was not in control of his actions. Two inconclusive medical reports were submitted. The magistrates allowed this and acquitted him. QB allowed the prosecution's appeal, saying that D had failed to prove a state of automatism and that the onus was on D to so prove. Also they said that unless statute provides, medical evidence has no place in establishing mental conditions: it is to be deduced from evidence under oath. Quick  QB 910: D was a nurse and attacked a patient during a hypoglycaemic attack after he had taken his insulin with spirits and he had no recollection of the attack. Judge didn't allow automatism to be put to jury but allowed insanity to be put. D was convicted. CA said clearly it wasn't a case of insanity since within the M'Naughten definition insanity was disease of the mind, not a transitory condition caused by external stimulus. Instead the defence of automatism should have been put and therefore the convection was unsafe and quashed (don't say whether defence of automatism would have succeeded or not). Bailey  Crim.L.R. 353: A guy hit a man over the head with a metal bar during a hypoglaecemic attack and was convicted of wounding, after the judge said that the defence of automatism did not apply where that state was self-induced. The CA noted that the direction was incorrect and that self induced automatism was a defence except where the defendant had put themselves into that state recklessly (i.e. in the knowledge that it could provoke violent behaviour etc e.g. drugs or alcohol). Despite the misdirection, the appeal was dismissed on the grounds that the defendant knew that his omission to eat after taking insulin could provoke such behaviour. Sullivan  AC 156: 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. Hennessy  1 W.L.R. 287: D was a diabetic and, having neglected to eat or drink or taken insulin in several days and committed some crimes, including driving without a license, in a state of hypoglycaemia, possibly contributed towards by stress and anxiety. The trial judge directed on insanity but not on automatism, saying that it didn't apply. D appealed on the basis that stress, anxiety, depression etc were external factors which
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