R v Bailey [1983] 1 WLR 760

Self-induced automatism defence unavailable to diabetic convicted of wounding with intent


The appellant (B) was convicted of wounding with intent. He claimed the defence of automatism caused by hypoglaecemia as a result of failing to take food after a dose of insulin. At trial, the jury were directed to disregard the automatism defence as it does not apply to self-induced incapacity.


B appealed on grounds that the jury had been misdirected at trial as regards the mental element involved in the inducement of automatism. As was established in R v Majewski [1977] AC 443, self-induced intoxication negates a defence of automatism in “basic intent” cases. Individuals who consume alcohol or drugs to excess may be able to foresee the risk of causing harm to others. The key issue was whether this could be extended to a diabetic individual in B’s circumstances.


The Court noted that it is not common knowledge, even amongst diabetics such as B, that a failure to ingest food after taking insulin will result in aggressive behaviour. Thus, self-induced automatism, other than that due to taking alcohol or drugs, may provide a defence to crimes of basic intent. The question in each individual case will be whether the prosecution have proven the necessary element of recklessness. The jury in B’s case were given no direction regarding recklessness and so were misdirected. Nevertheless, B did not provide a sufficient basis for the defence and even if he had done, a properly directed jury would have rejected it. There was substantial evidence that he had armed himself purposefully in order to carry out the attack. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.

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