Cases & development of law (chronologically) of the defence of insanity

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  • Created by: Freya
  • Created on: 15-06-11 11:44
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Gen def. may be used for any crime, even a summary off.
If successfully pleaded, may be acquitted
Common law, ruled by the M'Naughton rules
M'Naughton 1843
Pub. & media outcry when D acquitted of murder of Sir Robert Peel's secretary
Med ev. certified him med. insane
HL asked to consider the issue, result are the 3 elements of insanity;
D suffering from a defect of reason
Due to a disease of the mind
So that he didn't know the nature & quality of the act he was doing, or if he did, he didn't know It was
R v Horseferry Road Mag. ex parte K 1996
Unavail. for strict liability off.
If D raises issues of automatism, judge/pros. may raise issues of insanity
A Defect of Reasoning;
A complete loss of reasoning power
Clarke 1972
A defect of reasoning cannot be mere absentmindedness or confusion
D charged w/stealing several items from supermarket
Said she had no intention of stealing but absentmindedly put them in her bag
Med. ev. showed this to be due to a combination of depression & diabetes
TJ dir. jury that the def. of insanity applied
D pleaded guilty, as pre-1991 (at which point the mandatory sen. of med. imprisonment was abolished)
App. to CA & qu. con. as said was not deprived of reasoning powers, but was momentarily confused/
Lacked necc. MR for the crime (theft)
A Disease of the Mind;
Kemp 1957
Crt said; `No distinction b/twn diseases of the mind and diseases of the body which affect the mind'
D suffered from hardening arteries, causing problem w/blood supply to the brain

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D suffered due to this, from moment of temporary loss of consciousness
During one of these, hit his wife w/a hammer, causing serious injury
Charged w/S20 GBH
During his trial, qu. if his cond. came w/in insanity guidelines
Admitted suffered from a defect of reasoning
Said no due to a disease of the mind but of the body; hardening arteries
Crt found him n/g by reason of insanity - often called `the special verdict'
App. & CA upheld dec.…read more

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CA qu. con; cause of automatic state was not diabetes but insulin and as is an external factor, qu. of
automatism should have been left to the jury
Hennessey 1989
D had a hyperglycemic attack & charged w/sex off.
D hadn't taken his drugs in 3 days & didn't remember anything
Judge said correct def. was insanity & D pleaded g. then app.
CA upheld con. as diabetes caused an automatic state as an internal factor
i.e.…read more

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Social stigma - hard to rid one of the term `insane'
Language archaic - v. un PC esp. in current climate & still known as the `special verdict'
Inconsistent - Quick (internal factor, diabetes) vs. Hennessey (external factor, diabetes)
Unfair/absurd - diff. forms of diabetes produce diff. results
Burden of proof - sleepwalking hard to prove
Med.…read more


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