• In the case of R v Bailey [1983] 1 W.L.R. 760, it was held that self-induced automatism can apply as a defence where the defendant in the case of crimes with basic or specific intent, provided that the defendant had not acted recklessly.

Facts of the Case

  • D, a diabetic, was deemed a man of good character. In January 1982, D’s partner left him and formed an association with X.
  • At 7pm on 20th January, D visited X at his home. After a 10-15 discussion D asked X for sugar and water, which he drank.
  • 10 minutes later, D started to leave but returned to retrieve his glove. When X looked down the side of the chair where D was sitting, D struck him on the back of the head with an iron bar. D remained in the house while X fled.
  • D was later arrested. His GP gave evidence that he required insulin treatment and needed to consume food shortly after receiving insulin.
  • D’s case was that the food he consumed after his last insulin treatment was not enough to counterbalance it. As a result, he suffered hypoglycemia and was not conscious at the time of assault. This, D contended, fell within the defence of automatism.
  • The recorder directed the jury that the defence did not apply when the automatism was self-induced. D was convicted of wounding with intent.


  • Could D raise the defence of automatism when his state of automatism was self-induced due to his lack of sufficient consumption?

Held by the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)

  • Finding for C, that self-induced automatism could be a defence to a crime of basic or specific intent unless D had acted recklessly. However, there had been no miscarriage of justice as even if the jury had been properly directed they would still reject the defence.

Stuart-Smith L.J.

  • Reg v Majewski [1977] established that even where an incapacity of mind is self-induced by the voluntary taking of drugs or alcohol or the omission to take medication, the specific intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm may be negated. However, it does not negate the mens rea necessary for basic intent crimes because the defendant’s conduct is reckless, which is sufficient mens rea for these crimes.
  • “It is common knowledge that those who take alcohol to excess or certain sorts of drugs may become aggressive or do dangerous or unpredictable things, they may be able to foresee the risks of causing harm to others but nevertheless persist in their conduct. But the same cannot be said without more of a man who fails to take food after an insulin injection. If he does appreciate that such a failure may lead to aggressive, unpredictable and uncontrollable conduct and he nevertheless deliberately runs the risk or otherwise disregards it, this will amount to recklessness. But we certainly do not think that it is common knowledge, even among diabetics, that such is a consequence of a failure to take food and there is no evidence that it was known to D. Doubtless he knew that if he failed to take his insulin or proper food after it he might lose consciousness, but as such he would only be a danger to himself unless he put himself in charge of some machine such as a motor car, which required his continued conscious control” [764H].
  • The recorder never invited the jury to consider D’s knowledge or appreciation of what would happen if he failed to take sufficient food, nor why he omitted to do so. They were also not directed on recklessness at all.
  • However, a miscarrage of justice will only occur when the properly directed jury would fail to arrive at the same conclusion, i.e. D’s conviction for wounding with intent. An episode of sudden loss of awareness was possible, but inconsistent with the description D gave to the police orally and in his written statement. There was ample evidence that D had armed himself and gone to X’s house for the purposes of attacking him. For these reasons, the court is satisfied no miscarriage of justice occurred.