The defendant drank lager into which a third party had put amphetamine. He then tried to start vehicles belonging to others with the intention of taking them away. He also took some property from one of the vehicles. The sheriff acquitted him. The procurator fiscal appealed and the sheriff stated a case, in the course of which he found that: ‘The respondent was aware of his actions in the early hours of 29 March 1991. He was aware that these actions were wrong, in so far as they comprised the conduct of the respondent found to be criminal herein. The respondent’s ability to reason the consequences of his actions to himself was affected by his ingestion of the drug amphetamine. He was unable to take account of the fact that they were criminal in character by reason of his ingestion of amphetamine. The respondent was unable to refrain from these criminal actions by reason of his ingestion of the drug amphetamine.’ He applied Kidd.
Held: The procurator’s appeal succeded.
Lord Hope LCJ said: ‘Where, as in the present case, the accused knew what he was doing and was aware of the nature and quality of his acts and that what he was doing was wrong, he cannot be said to be suffering from some total alienation of reason in regard to the crime with which he is charged which the defence requires. The sheriff found in finding 16 that the respondent’s ability to reason the consequences of his actions to himself was affected by his ingestion of the drug. The finding narrates that he was unable to take account in his actions of the fact that they were criminal in character and to refrain from them. But this inability to exert self control, which the sheriff has described as an inability to complete the reasoning process, must be distinguished from the essential requirement that there should be a total alienation of the accused’s mental faculties of reasoning and of understanding what he is doing. As in the case of provocation, which provides another example of a stimulus resulting in a loss of self control at the time of the act, this may mitigate the offence but it cannot be held to justify an acquittal on the ground that there is an absence of mens rea. . . It is clear therefore that not every weakness or aberration of the mind will amount to insanity. So it is in the case of the defence with which the decision in Ross was concerned. Not every weakness or aberration induced by the external factor will provide the defence. Hence the insistence in Ross on a total alienation of reason in relation to the crime charged. This is necessary in order to distinguish the condition from other conditions which may be regarded at best as merely mitigating the offence. What will amount to a total alienation of reason, or as was said in Ross, 1991 S.L.T. 564, 572A, a total loss of control of the accused’s actions in regard to the crime with which he is charged, must be a question of fact in each case. But so far as the present case is concerned the sheriff has made express findings in regard to several of the crimes with which the respondent was charged that he intended to do what he did. There are findings that he intended to start the motor vehicles, steal them and drive them away. In the light of these findings the sheriff’s conclusion that the respondent’s ability to reason the consequences of his actions to himself was affected by his ingestion of the drug and that he was unable to refrain from them was relevant at best only to mitigation. He should have held that the respondent’s reason in relation to the crimes charged was not totally alienated and that he did not have a proper basis for the defence.’
Lord Hope LCJ
1992 SLT 1152
Explained – HM Advocate v Cunningham 1963
Cited – HM Advocate v Kidd 1960
The court set out the conditions for finding insanity in criminal law. . .
Cited – Brennan v HM Advocate HCJ 12-May-1977
The defendant appealed against his conviction for murder after his special defence of insanity was rejected. The trial judge, in charging the jury withdrew the special defence from their consideration and directed them that the evidence of the . .
Cited – Regina v Kingston HL 22-Jul-1994
Involuntary Intoxication not a General Defence
The prosecutor appealed an acquittal on appeal of the defendant for sexual assault, saying that he had not had the necessary intent because of intoxication through drink and drugs. He said that a co-defendant had secretly administered drugs to him. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 01 May 2022; Ref: scu.272896