Crime CXXIX – Intoxication V

If the defendant became intoxicated because of external factors or factors that were to some degree or extent beyond his or her control then that might be a mitigating factor that might reduce the severity of the crime for example in instances of automatism.

There are two types of automatism:-

  1. Automatism that arises as a result of the defendant’s failure to do something or the defendant overdoing something that he is supposed to do. This type of automatism is considered or regarded as intoxication.
  2. Automatism that is precipitated by natural causes i.e. a sickness or an illness. This type of automatism is regarded as insanity.

Automatism per se is the defendant’s inability to control himself or herself, and it works in the same manner that an impulse control disorder does. However, impulse control disorders are inherent conditions that exist throughout whereas automatism only arises at certain times and in most instances if the defendant takes his or her medication in the prescribed manner, it never arises.

In R v Quick (1973) the defendant a male nurse who was a diabetic had taken insulin without consuming any food, and in addition to that had consumed alcohol which aggravated the situation (whisky and rum). He assaulted a patient who was a paraplegic and inflicted injuries that included a broken nose and a black eye.

The defendant was charged under s.47 of the Offences Against Person Act (1861) and the trial judge directed the jury on insanity (automatism that arises naturally). He was convicted and he appealed.

The appeal was allowed and the conviction was quashed. The defendant was suffering from automatism that arose from a failure to consume food after taking insulin or taking excessive insulin and his condition was further aggravated or exacerbated by the fact that he’d been drinking.

It was automatism that arose from external factors i.e. a failure to do something that is required or doing something that the defendant shouldn’t be doing given his condition and the type of automatism that the defendant suffered from fell under the category of intoxication.

The defendant lacked the mens rea or the mental element required for a s.47 conviction and while the defendant committed the act it is difficult to say that he was in full control or had any degree of control over his mind or his body at the time (according to the defendant he could not remember injuring the victim).

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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