The Law Commission of England has published what it calls a scoping paper on insanity and automatism
"When should a person not be criminally liable because of their mental
condition at the time they committed an alleged offence? This is the
question posed by what is called the defence of 'insanity'. "
"Similarly, a person might not be criminally liable because
they lacked conscious control of their actions at the time of
committing the alleged offence for a reason other than their mental
condition. This might amount to a defence of 'sane automatis'" under the
"The current rules that govern the insanity defence (also
referred to as 'insane automatism') date from 1843. They have been
widely criticised for a number of reasons:
it is not clear whether the defence of insanity is even available in all cases
the law lags behind psychiatric understanding, and
this partly explains why, in practice, the defence is underused and
medical professionals do not apply the correct legal test
the label of “insane” is outdated as a description of
those with mental illness, and simply wrong as regards those who have
learning disabilities or learning difficulties, or those with epilepsy
the case law on insane and non-insane automatism is
incoherent and produces results that run counter to common-sense (...)"
"When we have considered the responses to this scoping paper we will consider how best to take the project forward to ensure that the law in practice is fit for purpose in the 21st century and reflects the changing approach to people with mental illness."
The accompanying material looks at the situation of the law in England and Wales as well as in other jurisdictions, such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Hong Kong, India, the US, Scotland, South Africa and Northern Ireland.
Labels: comparative and foreign law, criminal law, law commissions, UK