Automatism

Automatism

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Automatism

  • Insanity is often referred to as insane automatism, this defence is often known as sane automatism.
  • These defences are both closely linked and many defendants seeking to rely on automatism have found themselves being classed as insane.
  • Automatism is  the defendants inability to control his or her actions.
  • It has long been accepted that a defendant will only face criminal liability for their actions if they were performed voluntarily.
  • With the defence of Automatism, a defendant claims that the actus reus was involuntary and argues that therefore they sould not be convicted of the offence.
  • As the defendant is denying the actus reus automatism may be used as a defence to all crimes, including strict liability offences.
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Elements of Automatism

Total loss of voluntary control

  • The defendant must show that there was a complete loos of voluntary control in order to rely on automatism.

CASE: Broome v Perkins (1987), Attorney General's reference (No2)(1992)

Loss of control must be caused by external factors

  • The loss of control must be due to external factors, a key difference between insanity and automatism.
  • For a successful plea of automatism the defendant must show that their involuntary act was caused by an external factor.
  • External factors include: a blow to the head causing unconciousness, being stung by a bee, being given anaethetic, reflex action, being hypnotised or suffering from severe shock or post-traumatic stress.

CASE: R v Quick (1973), R v T (1990)

 

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Elements of Automatism

Self-induced automatism

  • If the automatism was caused by voluntary consumption of drugs or alcohol, the defendant cannot rely on this defence and will be subject to the rules of intoxication instead. CASE: R v Lipman (1970)
  • If the defendants automatism is caused by something other than drugs or alcohol, they may be able to use this defence, although this depends on whether they knew there was risk of getting in such a condition. CASE: R v Bailey (1983)
  • Self-induced automatism means something other than that caused by drink or drugs. It may operate as a defence to crimes of basic intent if the prosecution cannot prove that the defendant was recklessness.
  • Whether a defendant was recklessness or not depends on whether they knew that their acts of omissions were likely to make them aggressive or unpredictable.
  • If the defendant seeks to rely on automatism they must raise the defence and will require medical evidence in order to do so.
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Evaluation & Reform

Leads to irrational and unfair results

  • The courts have tried to restrict the availability of automatism because it results in a complete aquittal, despite the fact that the defendant may have beaten someone up or committed ABH and Robbery. By making it hard to rely on this defence, they hope that only genuine automatons can rely on it.
  • The distinction made between internal and external factors has been criticised. Internal factors are more likely to reoccur than external, and thus the public is more likely to be at risk from a defendant with such a condition.

Extending Automatism -It has been suggested that automatism should be extended to cover all cases that can be controlled by drugs or eating and drinking, this would reduce the illogical distinctions that are often made.

Abolishing internal and external factors - For this to be done insanity would need to be updated

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