Crime CLVI-Insanity XIII

Sleepwalking (somnambulism) is another disorder (behavioral) that can cause the defendant to perpetrate criminal acts. It is caused by internal or inherent factors and as a result the defense that is available to the defendant is insanity.

In R v Burgess (1991) the defendant injured a woman while she was sleeping by hitting her over the head with a whisky bottle and striking her with a video recorder. The defendant was charged under s.18 and s.20 of the Offences Against the Person Act (1861) for wounding with intention to cause grievous bodily harm.

The defendant had no recollection of the event and his claim was supported by medical evidence. The defendant sought to rely on the defense of automatism but the trial judge directed the jury on insanity instead and the jury found that that the defendant was guilty by virtue of insanity.

The defendant appealed on the grounds that he should have been found not guilty by way of automatism contending that both defenses were a result of a disorder and therefore either of the defenses should be made available.

The appeal was dismissed. Because sleepwalking was a disorder that was caused by inherent or internal factors the correct defense to raise would be that of insanity and the trial judge had nor erred in his direction. The court further went on to state that while sleepwalking was common, doing violent things while sleepwalking was not.

Copyright © 2019 by Dyarne Ward


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