Incapacity and Disability: the Exculpatory Doctrines of Insanity and Automatism

Arlie Loughnan

in Manifest Madness

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199698592
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738883 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Monographs on Criminal Law and Justice

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This chapter focuses on the substantive law of insanity and automatism. It suggests that, when a loose, broad, and partially moralized notion of incapacity — defined largely by extra-legal norms — pertained as a basis for exculpation, claims falling across the bounds of insanity and automatism were accommodated within an informal insanity doctrine and under a flexible criminal process. However, gradually, as mental incapacity came to be the subject of expert medical knowledge — a change that took place as much beyond as within criminal law — this broad notion of incapacity ossified into a narrower notion of disability, ushering in a more circumscribed approach to insanity. It was in this context that a discrete automatism doctrine appeared in the second half of the twentieth century.

Keywords: insanity; automatism; incapacity; exculpation; criminal law; disability

Chapter.  19416 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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