Automatism re-visited: post-traumatic automatism as a defence to a serious criminal charge

Med Sci Law. 1995 Oct;35(4):327-32. doi: 10.1177/002580249503500410.


A case is described of a policeman who assaulted the man he was arresting after receiving a concussive blow to the head. The defence argued he was suffering from post-traumatic automatism and after juries were unable to agree a verdict in two trials he was acquitted. Aspects of post-traumatic automatism in English law are described and theories of the neurology of concussion and aggressive behaviour are discussed. Guidelines are proposed for the evaluation of cases of post-traumatic automatism.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Automatism* / diagnosis
  • Automatism* / etiology
  • Automatism* / physiopathology
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / psychology*
  • Criminal Law*
  • England
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Police / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Violence / psychology*