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R v Roach [2001] EWCA Crim 2698 Court of Appeal

The appellant was working as a caterer at the Royal Tournament. He stabbed a co-worker's hand in the course of a trivial disagreement over the loss of a mop. The appellant contended that he had no recollection of the stabbing but could remember the events leading up to it. Medical evidence was to the effect that the appellant suffered from an anti social personality disorder. At the time of the stabbing he had also taken alcohol and prescribed drugs. The trial judge directed the jury on insanity but did not leave the issue of non-insane automatism open to them. The jury rejected the defence of insanity and convicted him of wounding with intent under s.18 OAPA 1861. The appellant appealed as the issue of non-insane automatism was not left open for the jury.

Held:

The appeal was allowed and the conviction quashed. The issue of non-insane automatism should have been left for the jury to decide.

Potter LJ:

"As already indicated, the prosecution urged upon the judge that what the doctors for the defendant placed before the jury amounted to 'Insane Automatism'; indeed it was so described by them in the phrase 'insane automatism of psychogenic type', the 'disease of the mind' which they identified being described as 'mixed personality disorder'. On the other hand, as the defence urged upon the judge, the opinion of the doctors plainly accorded a causative role to the contributory factors of alcohol and prescribed medication in combination with the personality disorder and fatigue. As counsel rightly submitted to the judge and, indeed, Mr Zeitlin for the Crown conceded before him, whatever the psychiatric definition adopted by the doctors in their reports and evidence and their reference to ‘insane automatism’, the legal definition of automatism allows for the fact that, if external factors are operative upon an underlying condition which would not otherwise produce a state of automatism, then a defence of (non-insane) automatism should be left to the jury."
 
Back to lecture outline on the law of insanity in criminal liability