Attorney-General’s Reference (no. 2 of 1992) [1994] QB 91, [1993] 3 W.L.R. 982

Key point

  • The defence of automatism requires a total loss of voluntary control


  • D, a truck driver, steered into hard shoulder and drove down it until he hit a stationary car, killing two people
  • Expert witness claimed that he had been “driving without awareness” due to long exposure to monotonous motorways
  • D was acquitted on the defence of automatism

Held (Court of Appeal)

  • “Driving without awareness” did not amount to automatism

Lord Taylor CJ

  • ‘the defence of automatism requires that there was a total destruction of voluntary control on the defendant’s part. Impaired, reduced or partial control is not enough’
  • In this case D retained partial control, he would have been able to react if exposed to significant stimuli