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1. Criminal Law Automatism and Mental Illness
2. Mental Disability Many defendants will be suffering from learning disabilities or some form of mental illness. Does this affect their criminal liability?
very limited impact on liability except for:
defence of insanity
anachronistic conceptual framework
defence of diminished responsibility
only for murder
more likely to affect sentencing
3. The voluntary act
Another general principle:
actus reus must be voluntary - defendant must have been exercising free choice in committing the crime
for example, look at the defences of justified force/self defence or duress
rationale: unjust to punish where D unable to exercise free choice
But this issue must be raised by D - presumption that act is voluntary
General principle of volition:
can arise as a defence with automatism. Criteria are:
D acts involuntarily: eg concussed, under administration of anaesthetic, psychological trauma or blackout
Hill v Baxter 1957 - claimed accident was result of blackout - Divisional Court agreed that automatism could be a defence but required an evidential basis
complete [not just reduced] destruction of voluntary control
AGs Ref 2/92 - trance induced by featureless motorway not sufficient
5. Automatism Non-insane automatism:
not the result of mental disorder
unfettered acquittal Insane automatism:
result of mental disorder
special verdict Automatism as a defence can be of two types:
resulting a) from mental illness b) not from mental illness
6. Insane automatism: procedure MNaghtens Case 1843 - Tindal lays down elements of defence
every man is presumed to be sane.until the contrary be proved
burden of proof on accused
but Lambert  3 All ER 577
fitness to plead - s.2 Criminal Procedure (Insanity) Act 1991: Antoine  2 All ER 208; H (2004) 1 All ER 412
did D do act charged? was he under a disability?
special verdict: Trial of Lunatics Act 1883 as amended by s.1 Criminal Procedure Act 1964
discretion on sentence: 1991 Act
7. Defence of Insanity: substance Elements of defence in Tindal CJs judgment in MNaghtens Case 1843
accused must prove (on the balance of probabilities) that he was suffering from:
a defect of reason
resulting from a disease of the mind
with the consequence that:
D did not know nature or quality of act OR
D did not know the act was wrong
8. Disease of the mind Insane automatism - involuntary act must be shown to be due to disease of the mind
disease of the mind marks boundary between sane and insane automatism
insanity and disease of the mind are legal (not medical) concepts
Note: criminal law does not follow s.1(2), Mental Health Act 1983
mental disorder means mental illness, arrested or incomplete development of the mind, psychopathic disorder and any other disorder or disability of the mind
9. Disease of the mind
Legal concept of insanity means:
D can come within Mental Health Acts and still be criminally responsible: eg psychopaths
D can come outside Mental Health Acts and still be regarded as raising defence of insanity rather than non-insane automatism: epileptics
10. Disease of the mind
Consider Kemp 1957:
suffering from arteriosclerosis and attacked wife with hammer
the question was whether the mental faculties of reason, understanding and memory had been impaired - if so, disease of the mind and irrelevant whether the conditionis curable or incurable, transitory or permanent (Devlin)
11. Epilepsy as insanity Consider Bratty 1963:
epileptic strangles girl in psycho-motor episode - judge leaves only issue of insanity to jury conviction upheld by House of Lords
..any mental disorder which has manifested itself in violence and is prone to recur is a disease of the mind. At any rate it is the sort of disease for which a person should be detained in hospital rather than be given an unqualified acquittal(Denning)
12. Epilepsy as insanity
Bratty upheld in Sullivan 1983:
epileptic attacks friend during epileptic fit - judge rules this is defence of insanity - upheld by House of Lords
..it matters not whether the aetiology of the impairment is organic..or functional, or whether the impairment is transient and intermittent The purpose of the legislationhas been to protect society against recurrence of dangerous conduct. (Diplock)
Diplock suggests that external factor causing impairment [blow to head, reaction to anaesthetic] is not disease of the mind
13. Breadth of insanity
Should an epileptic be treated as mad?
judgments suggest that policy considerations (future danger) are uppermost in defining disease of the mind.
internal/external factor approach by Diplock in Bratty
leads to sleepwalkers (Burgess 1991) and diabetics being classed as mad
14. Diabetes as insanity
If diabetics fail to take insulin or to eat, drink too much or get over-tired:
hypoglycaemia - deficiency in blood sugar levels - too much insulin for blood sugar levels to cope with
hyperglycaemia - deficiency of insulin and excess of blood sugar levels
Sufferer can become violent and incapable of control
15. Diabetes as insanity
Consider Quick 1973:diabetic, took insulin but drank and didnt eat. Assaulted patient in his care
pleaded guilty when judge ruled that this was defence of insanity
Court of Appeal quashes conviction:a malfunctioning of the mind of transitory effect caused by the application to the body of some external factor such as violence, drugs., alcohol and hypnotic influences cannot fairly be said to be due to disease (Lawton)
16. Diabetes: external or internal factor?
Emphasis on external factors reinforced in Sullivan, Hennessy 1989, Bingham 1991
overdose of insulin - external factor - acquittal?
failure to take insulin - internal factor - hospital order?
17. Diabetes: self-induced?
In Quick, Lawton raised additional issue:
.a self-induced incapacity will not excusenor will one which could have reasonably been foreseen.
In Bailey 1983, Court of Appeal disapproved of this - self-induced incapacity could be a defence except where induced by alcohol or proscribed drugs.
18. Defect of Reason
In Clarke 1972:
shoplifting, plea of non-intent but absent-minded. Doctor gave evidence of depression - judge ruled that this was plea of insanity!
Court of Appeal disapproved of this - even if depression was disease of the mind, forgetfulness is not a defect of reason.
19. Nature or Quality of Act
Shows extreme level of functional impairment required:
refers to physical nature of act and excludes irresistible impulse or uncontrollable desire even if emanating from mental illness
excludes psychopaths - Sutcliffe (Yorkshire Ripper)
The mere fact that a man thinks he is John the Baptist does not entitle him to shoot his mother (Hewart LCJ)
20. Not knowing it was wrong
Alternative to not knowing the nature of act
But D must believe it is not legally wrong, not simply that it was morally wrong
Butler Committee on Mentally Disordered Offenders (Cmnd 6244)
recommended verdict of not guilty on evidence of mental disorder (paras 18.14-18.36)
broader defence of non-insane automatism in clauses 33 and 34
Disposal recommendations implemented in 1991 Act