Crime CLIII-Insanity X

In instances where the defendant inflicts some sort or type of harm to another during an epileptic fit (a subtle momentary loss of awareness, which causes the body to jerk and tremble), we once again have to look into the facts to determine which of the following defenses would apply: -

1) Automatism
2) Insanity

When the epileptic fit is brought on by external factors for example from the excessive taking of drugs or drinking the defense that is available is automatism.

When the epileptic fit is brought on by internal factors or inherent factors the defense that is available is insanity.

In R v Sullivan (1983) the defendant in an epileptic fit kicked the victim a 86-year-old man in the head and body. The defendant was charged under section 18 and 20 of the Offences Against Persons Act (1861) and during the trial, the trial judge directed the jury on insanity based on the fact that the epileptic fit that the defendant suffered from was caused by internal or inherent factors. The issue on hand was whether the appropriate defense was insanity or automatism. The defendant appealed.

The appeal was dismissed, and it was held that the trial judge’s direction was correct. The epileptic fit was caused by internal and inherent factors and fell under the scope of insanity i.e. it is classified or categorized as a disease of the mind.

Copyright © 2019 by Dyarne Ward


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