Insanity and Automatism

Open date: 18 July 2012

Close date: 18 October 2012

The latest publication in this project is the Discussion Paper which is available on the project page.

The Defences of Insanity and Automatism

The insanity defence dates from 1843. It has been widely criticised for its failure to keep pace with psychiatric understanding and its stigmatising and inaccurate label.  Problems also arise with the defence of automatism.  The case law on the defences is incoherent and produces results that run counter to common-sense.

Although there are many cogent criticisms made of the defences, there is less evidence that they cause difficulties in practice: there are only a very small number of successful insanity pleas each year (around 30), and there are no recorded figures as to the number of pleas or acquittals on the basis of automatism.

Law Commissioner Professor David Ormerod says, “To produce meaningful reform proposals and be confident they will work in practice we need evidence of their current use and any problems they pose.  Our scoping paper asks questions to provide that information.”

Consultees are encouraged to respond no matter how few questions they can answer.  Responses can be completed online.  Alternatively, responses can be sent by email, or by post to Criminal Law Team, Law Commission, 11 Tothill Street, London SW1H 9LJ.

This scoping review relates to our insanity and automatism project.

No reference number.

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