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R v Sullivan [1984] AC 156 House of Lords

The appellant kicked a man. At the time of the attack he was suffering from epilepsy. The trial judge ruled that on the evidence the appropriate defence was insanity not automatism. The appellant appealed.


The appeal was dismissed. The trial judge was correct in only allowing insanity to be put for the jury's consideration.

Lord Diplock:

"The purpose of the legislation relating to the defence of insanity, ever since its origin in 1800, has been to protect society against the recurrence of the dangerous conduct. The duration of a temporary suspension of the mental faculties of reason, memory and understanding, particularly if, as in the appellant's case, it is recurrent, cannot on any rational ground be relevant to the application by the Courts of the McNaghten Rules, though it may be relevant to the course adopted by the Secretary of State, to whom the responsibility for how the defendant is to be dealt with passes after the return of the special verdict of "not guilty by reason of insanity"