Coley v R; McGhee v R and Harris v R  EWCA Crim 223. The court comprised Hughes LJ (soon to be a Supreme Court Justice) and Hickinbottom and Holyrode JJ. The case was concerned with the interplay between the rules of criminal law relating to voluntary intoxication and the rules relating to insanity or (non-insane) automatism.
Hughes LJ commenced by saying:
"We have heard these three cases in succession because they have some features in common. Each raises a (different) question connected with the interplay between the law relating to voluntary intoxication and the law relating to insanity or (non-insane) automatism. Each calls, however, for consideration of its very particular facts. Neither individually nor collectively do they provide an occasion for any wide-ranging general statement of the law of insanity, still less of loss of capacity generally. We know
that this area of the law is under active consideration by the Law Commission, which work will, we think, be of value. Although there have historically been very few cases which raise insanity, that has been because the statutory provisions governing the disposal orders which must be made if there is a verdict of insanity have historically inhibited attempts to rely on it. More recent changes in those disposal provisions may well lead to an increase in numbers. Any review must, critically, address both the law of loss of capacity and the means of disposal in such cases, so as to pay proper regard both to the interests of the individual defendant and to the public risk which he represents."
The judgment concludes:
"These cases do not provide an occasion for a general review of the law of insanity, automatism or intoxication, but are illustrations of its application. A general review by the Law Commission into these related areas, such as is currently in train, will be welcome. It is we think essential that any such review addresses also the vital question of disposal following the differing verdicts which may ensue."
The Court of Appeal is clearly hoping for some legislative action in these areas once the Law Commission publishes the outcome of its work. For my part, I am not holding my breath. Generally, in relation to criminal law, there is a minimal response to Law Commission reports. A modern criminal law requires more urgency on the part of the legislature. Nevertheless, for students and practitioners, the Commission's reports are a cornucopia of information given the in-depth research which has gone into their preparation.
The Law Commission considered Intoxication and Criminal Liability and, in 2009, published a report (Law Com 314).
In July 2012, the Commission published a "scoping paper" related to Insanity - Law Commission Insanity - and the Commission stated:
"When we have considered the responses to this scoping paper we will
consider how best to take the project forward to ensure that the law in
practice is fit for purpose in the 21st century and reflects the
changing approach to people with mental illness."
The defence of insanity in English law was considered on this blog in July 2011 - Breivik - Would he have a defence on insanity in English law?