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A-G Ref (No 2 of 1992) [1993] 3 WLR 982 Court of Appeal

The appellant, a lorry driver, crashed into some cars parked on the hard shoulder of a motorway. Two people were killed. He raised the defence of non-insane automatism based on "driving without awareness" induced by "repetitive visual stimulus experienced on long journeys on straight flat roads". The defence of automatism was left to the jury and the defendant was acquitted. The Attorney General referred a point of law to the Court of Appeal as to whether such a condition could found a defence of automatism.


Held:

The defence of automatism should not have been left to the jury and that the state described as "driving without awareness" was not capable of founding a defence of automatism. 

Lord Taylor CJ:

"As the authorities … show, the defence of automatism requires that there was a total destruction of voluntary control on the defendant's part. Impaired, reduced or partial control is not enough. Professor Brown [who gave expert evidence for the respondent] accepted that someone "driving without awareness" within his description, retains some control. He would be able to steer the vehicle and usually to react and return to full awareness when confronted by significant stimuli."
 
Back to lecture outline on non-insane automatism in criminal law