A special verdict. The defence of automatism

A defence in criminal law arises
when conditions exist to nullify particular elements of the crime:
the actus reus when actions are involuntary, the mens rea when the defendant is
unaware of the significance of their behaviour, or both. These defences will
lesson or eliminate liability from a criminal offence. Automatism is an example
of said defences. There are two types of automatism, insane automatism or
insanity and non-insane automatism. Insanity is hard to determine and even harder
to defend in court it also carries with it a stigma. A special verdict in the
Crown Court of ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’ leaves the court with the
power to consider whether the
defendant should in fact be classed as criminally insane.


Automatism operates under the common law and as such we
must look to specific cases for help. If a person totally lacked control of his
or her body at the time of the offence, and that lack of control was not caused
by his or her own prior fault, then he or she may plead not guilty and may be
acquitted. This is referred to as the defence of automatism. It is a common law
defence and it is available for all crimes. Once the accused has called enough
evidence to make automatism a live issue in the trial, the prosecution must
disprove the defence; if they fail to do so the defendant will be acquitted.
There is no special verdict. The defence of automatism is evidently so closely
related to that of insanity that reform of one entails reform of the other.


            For the defence of automatic
movement(s) to be used as a defence the loss of control must not be self-caused,
there must be complete loss of control and the cause of the automatic
movement(s) must be external such as a blow to the head causing (hard hit to
the head that knocks you out), the effect of a drug which may have been given,
hypnosis or post terrible and upsetting stress and there must be a total lack
of (knowing about something). For instance, should a huge number of bees enter
a car causing the driver to free control and hit a (walking person/related to
people on foot) the defence of automatic movement(s) would apply.   Unlike other defences such as the special
defences of encouragement (to fight), reduced responsibility and suicide
agreement which only operate to reduce a charge of murder to (murder without
intent to kill), the defence of automatic movement(s) serves as a complete
defence and is not limited. It is a defence to any crime including crimes of
strict (something you owe/something you’re responsible for/disadvantage).