Disclaimer: This work was produced by one of our expert legal writers, as a learning aid to help law students with their studies.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of LawTeacher.net. Any information contained in this case summary does not constitute legal advice and should be treated as educational content only.

R v Kemp (1957) 1 QB 399

290 words (1 pages) Case Summary

4th Jul 2019 Case Summary Reference this In-house law team

Jurisdiction / Tag(s): UK Law

R v Kemp (1957) 1 QB 399

Physical impairment as a “disease of the mind” in the law on insanity


The defendant assaulted his wife with a hammer. He had no previous history of violence and no apparent motive. He was charged with causing grievous bodily harm contrary to the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. The defendant argued that the attack was the result of loss of consciousness linked to arteriosclerosis, with the hardening of the arteries causing congestion of blood in his brain. This was used by the defence as grounds for a defence of automatism. The trial judge however directed the jury that the appropriate defence was one of insanity.


The issue before the appeal court was whether the trial judge had correctly directed the jury that insanity is the appropriate defence in this case and more broadly whether the M’Naghten “disease of the mind” test can apply to physical conditions as well.


The court held that hardening of the arteries could amount to a disease of the mind due to its effect on a person’s reasoning ability. Essentially the court was not concerned with how a defendant got to a certain state of mind (through a physical or psychological impairment), but that he reached that state and was in it at the time of committing the offence. The term “disease of the mind” was designed, inter alia, to limit the effect of the term “defect of reason” so as not to permit stupidity to act as a defence. The trial judge had therefore been correct in directing the jury that the appropriate defence is insanity and not automatism.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

Related Content

Jurisdictions / Tags

Content relating to: "UK Law"

UK law covers the laws and legislation of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Essays, case summaries, problem questions and dissertations here are relevant to law students from the United Kingdom and Great Britain, as well as students wishing to learn more about the UK legal system from overseas.

Related Articles