Automatism A2 Law

just some notes that will hopefully help includes cases.

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  • Created by: Harriot
  • Created on: 11-01-13 09:55
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Definition- An act done without any control by the mind, such as a spasm, reflex, act or
convulsion, or an act done by a person who is not conscious of what he is doing such as an
act done whilst suffering from concussion or sleepwalking.
This covers both types of automatism:
1-insane automatism (Insanity) - disease of the mind within the M'Naghten Rules. `Not guilty by
reason of insanity'
2- Non-insane automatism- caused by and external factor. Complete defence so complete acquittal.
Non-Insane automatism
The actus reas (the act itself) is not voluntary. The defendant doesn't have the required mens rea
(the mental element of the act.)
Cause must be external:
A blow to the head
An attack by a swarm of bees
The effect of a drug
Name Details Meaning
Hill V Baxter (1958) D drove through stop sign and No fault when D was in an
hit another car. He automatic state due to an
remembered nothing before external cause. Approved
and during reaching the stop earlier case judgement in Kay V
sign. Butterworth (1945)
T (1990) D was raped then three days Although convicted, the judge
later she took part in a robbery did allow automatism to be
and assault. She claimed considered meaning that in
post-traumatic stress a result cases of extreme stress
from the rape. automatism is a possibility.
Reduced or partial control of one's actions is not sufficient to constitute non-insane automatism.
Name Details Meaning
Attorney General's Reference D drove a lorry on the hard Court of Appeal ruled that this
(No. 2 of 1992) (1993) shoulder. He then hit a car and condition only causes partial
killed 2 people. He stated he loss of control therefore could
was suffering from `driving not be automatism.
without awareness' and in a
trance like state.

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Self-induced Automatism
Where the defendant knows that what he does will bring on an automatic state. E.g. diabetic who
doesn't take insulin.
Name Details Meaning
Bailey (1983) Diabetic who didn't eat enough Court of Appeal held the ruling
after insulin. Became was wrong (but held the
aggressive and hit someone conviction due to lack of
with a metal bar. Judge said evidence)
automatism was not an option.
Court of Appeal set out the rules of self-induced automatism.…read more

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The defendant doesn't know that there actions may lead to a
self-induced automatic state in which he may cause an offence. Not been
reckless so can use the defence of automatism.
Name Details Meaning
Hardie (1984) D was depressed as broke up The drug was intended to calm
with girlfriend. Took girlfriends but had the opposite effect. So
Valium to calm down. He then defendant not reckless and
set fire to a wardrobe. automatism should have been
allowed.…read more


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