Case link: Automatism – insanity – Bratty v Attorney General of Northern Ireland [1961] UKHL 3

“The Court of Criminal Appeal certified that their decision in dismissing the Appellant’s appeal involved two points of law of general public importance. The first was ” whether, his plea of insanity having been rejected by ” the jury, it was open to the accused to rely upon a defence of automatism “. This raises the question whether a person who by legal tests and standards is sane and who is charged with a criminal offence could be held to be non-accountable for his actions so as to be not guilty of the offence charged against him on the basis that his actions had been unconscious ones and in that sense involuntary.

The second point of law certified was expressed in these words: ” If the ” answer to (1) be in the affirmative, whether, on the evidence, the defence of automatism should have been left to the jury.” This raises the question whether there was any evidence of ” automatism ” which was fit to be left to the jury.”

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Case link: Insanity – intoxication – Attorney General for Northern Ireland v Gallagher BAILII: [1961] UKHL 2

“The man is a psychopath. That is, he has a disease of the mind which is not produced by drink. But it is quiescent. And whilst it is quiescent, he forms an intention to kill his wife. He knows it is wrong but still he means to kill her. Then he gets Himself so drunk that he has an explosive outburst and kills his wife. At that moment he knows what he is doing but he does not know
it is wrong. So in that respect—in not knowing it is wrong—fee has a defect of reason at the moment of killing. If that defect of reason is due to the drink, it is no defence in law. But if it is due to the disease of themind, it gives rise to a defence of insanity. No one can say, however,
whether it is due to the drink or to the disease. It may well be due to both in combination. What guidance does the law give in this difficulty?

That is, as I see it, the question of general public importance which is involved in this case.”

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