R v Codere (1916) 12 Cr App R 21

Defence of insanity not applicable where accused aware of the nature and quality of actions


C appealed against his conviction for murder. At trial, expert witnesses had disagreed on whether he could be certified as insane.


According to the “M'Naghtenrules” (see R v McNaughten 8 E.R. 718) an insanity defence requires proof that the accused did not appreciate “nature and quality” of the act committed or, did not know what he was doing was wrong. Therefore, if it is clear that the accused was aware that the act was wrong and contrary to the law of the land then he is liable to be punished. On appeal, counsel for C argued that C’s conduct before and after the murder, as narrated by various witnesses, pointed to the conclusion that he was not aware that the act was wrong. As C was incapable of understanding the heinousness of his actions it was argued that the defence of insanity should apply.


The Court considered the meaning of the words “nature and quality” in the M’Naghten rules and held that the Court in that case did not intend to distinguish between the physical and moral aspects of the act. If C understood the physical nature of the act it then ought to be considered whether he knew it was wrong. If he was aware that the act was wrong in law then he could be considered aware that he ought not to do it. On the available evidence, the Court held that whilst it was clear that C was “abnormal mentally” there was sufficient evidence that he was conscious that the act was wrong and contrary to law. The appeal was accordingly dismissed.

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