Reforming automatism and insanity: neuroscience and claims of lack of capacity for control

Claydon, Lisa (2015). Reforming automatism and insanity: neuroscience and claims of lack of capacity for control. Medicine, Science and the Law, 55(3) pp. 162–167.



This paper examines some of the issues raised by the current criminal law defence of automatism and the related defence of insane automatism, and considers what neuroscience may contribute to the reform discussion. It also considers some of the claims made in relation to the impact of neuroimaging in the courtroom. It examines an American medical case report in which an individual’s criminal behaviour is linked to a brain tumour, and considers how the reformed law as presented in the Law Commission for England and Wales’ Discussion Paper might treat such claims. It concludes by examining what assistance the law may gain from a deeper understanding of how a sense of agency emerges from brain states, and the implications of this scientific knowledge for the reform of the law.

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  • Item ORO ID
  • 47664
  • Item Type
  • Journal Item
  • ISSN
  • 2042-1818
  • Project Funding Details
  • Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
    Sense of agency and responsibility: integrating legal and neurocognitive accountsAH/L015145/1AHRC
  • Extra Information
  • Special issue on Automatism
  • Keywords
  • criminal law; defence of automatism; neuroscience and sense of agency
  • Academic Unit or School
  • Faculty of Business and Law (FBL) > Law
    Faculty of Business and Law (FBL)
  • Copyright Holders
  • © 2015 SAGE Publications
  • Depositing User
  • Lisa Claydon