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The defence usually relies on establishing that the act took place during an automatism. In English law to be found guilty requires not only a demonstration that the defendant carried out the act, but also that there was conscious knowledge of what was being done. Conversely, an automatism is behavior that is involuntary and of which the subject has no awareness.2-4

Partially or reduced awareness of the action is not sufficient to fulfill the criteria for an automatism. This includes any movement of limbs or body completely uncontrolled by the mind and it implies that the subject did not know the nature of the act or that it was wrong. Lack of memory of the episode is not equivalent to an automatism and the defence that he or she could not control the impulse to carry out the act is also not accepted as an automatism.