Involuntary Manslaughter

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  • Topic: Criminal law, Forensic psychology, M'Naghten Rules
  • Pages : 5 (1508 words )
  • Download(s) : 63
  • Published : December 4, 2012
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David is charged with grievous bodily harm and from the facts provided; he may rely on the defence of automatism. Automatism is when actions are carried out without the control of the mind, for example, reflexes. An act cannot be punishable if it is carried out involuntarily. Criminal liability requires voluntary acts. A successful plea could result in a complete acquittal. For this reason, the courts have narrowly interpreted the defence to make it difficult for defendants to rely on it. The defence requires the cause to be an external factor. Applying this to David’s case, it can be submitted that the alcohol David consumed satisfies this element. David must then provide evidence that because of the alcohol, he suffered a total loss of voluntary control as outlined in the case of Broome v Perkins. When applied to the facts, it can be argued that although the alcohol had an effect on David’s reaction, there was no total loss of voluntary control because the attack would have required some level of control and this would not satisfy the defence. It is also unlikely that the courts would equate his reaction to a reflex. There issue of self induced automatism is also raised because the law will not protect a defendant if his automatism is induced by his own actions especially if alcohol and drugs are involved. It can be argued that David induced his state of automatism because he voluntarily and knowingly consumed alcohol. Public policy would require that a person be liable for his conduct and for the above reasons, the defence fails. David could plead insanity. Provided that the defence shows evidence of insanity and expert medical evidence of two medical practitioners is given, the jury may return a special verdict of ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’. Successful pleas result in supervision, treatment or guardianship orders and acquittals, although murder charges require indefinite detention in hospital. The defence requires that the McNaghten Rules be satisfied and the presumption of sanity is rebutted provided the defence can show evidence that the defendant suffered from a disease that affected the functioning of the mind at the time of the offence. David does not satisfy this element because there is no mention of any known medical condition that he can base his defence on and for this reason, failing the defence. David’s other alternative is pleading intoxication. As mentioned above, David had consumed alcohol which is an intoxicant. An intoxicant compromises one’s exercise of control, understanding or awareness. Although it is not an actual defence, the courts can allow evidence of intoxication to negate the mens rea of an offence. This depends on whether the intoxication is voluntary and it can be established from the discussion on automatism that David’s intoxication was voluntary. The next issue would be whether the crime was that of specific or basic intent. Intoxication only operates as a defence for crimes of specific intent. David is charged with GBH which is a specific intent crime satisfied with intent, therefore the defence would apply. Whether David possessed the necessary mens rea at the time of the offence is the next issue. A defendant would be found guilty if the prosecution provides evidence that the defendant was able to form the mens rea without the influence of an intoxicant – the normal way. David’s ‘drunken intent’ is still intent however, the issue would arise with the prosecution’s evidence to show that he could form the mens rea the normal way. This would be difficult to prove because the facts suggest that he may not be able to develop the mens rea because he was remorseful when he sobered up. Whether or not he possessed the mens rea for GBH would be left for the jury to decide, however it is likely that David’s defence of intoxication would succeed.

Lara is charged with Mark’s murder. The facts do not explicitly suggest that she was intoxicated and instead state that she was tired...
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