A special verdict. The defence of automatism

A defence in criminal law ariseswhen conditions exist to nullify particular elements of the crime:the actus reus when actions are involuntary, the mens rea when the defendant isunaware of the significance of their behaviour, or both. These defences willlesson or eliminate liability from a criminal offence. Automatism is an exampleof said defences.

There are two types of automatism, insane automatism orinsanity and non-insane automatism. Insanity is hard to determine and even harderto defend in court it also carries with it a stigma. A special verdict in theCrown Court of ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’ leaves the court with thepower to consider whether thedefendant should in fact be classed as criminally insane. Automatism operates under the common law and as such wemust look to specific cases for help. If a person totally lacked control of hisor her body at the time of the offence, and that lack of control was not causedby his or her own prior fault, then he or she may plead not guilty and may beacquitted. This is referred to as the defence of automatism. It is a common lawdefence and it is available for all crimes. Once the accused has called enoughevidence to make automatism a live issue in the trial, the prosecution mustdisprove 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 closelyrelated to that of insanity that reform of one entails reform of the other.              For the defence of automaticmovement(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 automaticmovement(s) must be external such as a blow to the head causing (hard hit tothe 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 lackof (knowing about something). For instance, should a huge number of bees entera car causing the driver to free control and hit a (walking person/related topeople on foot) the defence of automatic movement(s) would apply.   Unlike other defences such as the specialdefences of encouragement (to fight), reduced responsibility and suicideagreement which only operate to reduce a charge of murder to (murder withoutintent to kill), the defence of automatic movement(s) serves as a completedefence and is not limited.

It is a defence to any crime including crimes ofstrict (something you owe/something you’re responsible for/disadvantage).