Broome v Perkins (1987) 85 Cr App R 321

Automatism defence denied to diabetic driver involved in road traffic accident.


The defendant (P) was diabetic. He was charged with driving without due care and attention. At trial, he argued that he had suffered a hypoglycaemic incident and had lapsed into “automatic driving” whilst driving and although he was not in a coma his reckless driving was involuntary and automatic. At trial, the lay justices accepted this automatism defence.


The prosecutor appealed. The key issue was whether the lay justices were correct in law in finding that a defendant who had erratically driven a motor vehicle for approximately five miles, during which time he was involved in an accident, was capable of utilising automatism as a defence. It was established in Bratty v Attorney General for Northern Ireland [1963] AC 386that in cases of insane and non-insane automatism, the judge must only leave the defence of automatism to the jury where the defence has laid a proper evidential foundation for so doing.


The Court held that “automatism” implied involuntary movement of the body or limbs and whether this has occurred is a question of law which requires to proven by evidence. In the circumstances, the Court did not accept that a car could be driven for several miles without some degree of control. It must therefore be concluded that for parts of the journey P’s mind was controlling his limbs and that thus he was driving. Therefore, the automatism defence was not applicable. The case was remitted with a direction to convict.

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