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R v Kemp (1957) 1 QB 399

A devoted husband of previous good character made an entirely motiveless and irrational violent attack upon his wife with a hammer. He was charged with causing grievous bodily harm. He suffered from hardening of the arteries which lead to a congestion of blood in the brain. This caused a temporary lack of consciousness, so that he was not conscious that he picked up the hammer or that he was striking his wife with it. He sought to raise the defence of automatism.


The hardening of the arteries was a " disease of the mind " within the M'Naghten Rules and therefore he could not rely on the defence of automatism.

Devlin J:-

"It does not matter for the purposes of law, whether the defect of reason is due to a degeneration of the brain or to some other form of mental derangement. That may be a matter of importance medically, but it is of no importance to the law, which merely has to consider the state of mind in which the accused is, not how he got there."
Back to lecture outline on the law relating to insanity in criminal liability