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Criminal Law Defences Automatism Notes

BCL Law Notes > Criminal Law: Offences and Defences Notes

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Where due to an external blow, my mind disassociates with my body and I act without having control of my mind
For a few seconds, there is a sort of reflex or automatic physical response
Due to some external event, say under influence of drug or medicine - there is a loss of control


Not in control due to an ongoing medical condition
Alcohol and drugs is completely different because it in voluntary - its your fault if you take a substance willingly

➢ For both, you'll have to get medical or expertise evidence, to show that due to the external blow you lost control of your body,

Bratty NI 1963
Bratty strangled girlfriend with her stockings. When the police arrived and asked him why he did it,
he said 'I don't know, I felt a whoosh and a terrible blackness came over me'. Convicted of murder,
appealed and complained that the judge did not leave the defence of automatism to the jury as a live issue.There is no evidence at all to make automatism a live issue
To say to felt something does not come close to raising the medical, factual defence of automatism

Especially a mere whoosh and a blackness

Important to raise right one
They have different outcomes


Physical act disconnected to the mens rea or motivation for performing the conduct.
o o

Automatism is a full, common law defence.
It actually goes to the actus reus - you're saying that you did an involuntary act

Insanity is a special verdict,
You will be committed to a hospital

So you are detained on medical treatment, you do not walk free
You remain detained until you are well.
Could be forever
Client may not want to raise it if they understand the implications

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