Crime CXXXII – Intoxication VIII

With regards to the rule that intoxication is not a defense or is not a mitigating factor in basic intent crimes, there may be an exception when the acts of the defendant are a result or resulted from automatism, i.e. automatism is an exception to the rule that intoxication does not mitigate or reduce the severity of a basic intent crime. However, if there is intent, or the prosecution can establish intention, bearing in mind that the burden of proof is beyond reasonable doubt, the defense would not avail itself to the defendant.

In R v Bailey (1983) the defendant a diabetic went over to the house of his ex-lover’s new partner (victim), clearly upset over the fact that his ex-girlfriend had moved on. The victim invited the defendant in to discuss the matter, and the defendant who had taken his insulin but had not consumed any food, prior to the visit, felt that he was going into hypoglycemic, a state caused by a lack of glucose in the body and asked the victim for a glass of sugared water and upon drinking the water, the defendant was about to leave. As he was about to step out, he dropped his glove, and the victim bent over to pick it up and while he was doing so, the defendant hit him over the head with an iron bar.

The defendant was charged under s.18 of the Offences Against Person Act (1861) and the defendant countered by stating that he had no control of his actions, having at that stage succumbed to hypoglycemia and raised the defense of automatism. The trial judge ruled that automatism, self-induced or otherwise is not a defense or a mitigating factor when it comes to basic intent crimes and the jury convicted accordingly. The defendant appealed.

The Court of Appeal upheld the conviction and ruled that while there may have been a misdirection, it was not sufficient to render the conviction unsafe.

It was decided that self-induced automatism, other than that due to intoxication, i.e. automatism that arises from excessive drinking or from the use of drugs, may be a defense in basic intent crimes.

Whether the defense would avail itself to the defendant or otherwise depends on the evidence that is presented to the jury as per s.8 of the Criminal Justice Act (1967) and it is up to the jury to decide if the defendant was sufficiently reckless, knowing that he was a diabetic and knowing that he would slip into hypoglycemia if he took his insulin without consuming food.

It could also be argued that the defendant, knowing the effects of hypoglycemia and aware of the fact that while acting in that state he would be able to raise the defense of automatism, had committed the offence with intent to cause the victim some harm, hoping that the defense would be open to him.

According to the medical evidence that was presented, the actions of the defendant did not amount to automatism or even if he was slipping into hypoglycemia, it wasn’t sufficient to give rise to automatism.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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