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Sexsomnia: Is Sleepwalking A Defence For Sexual Offences?

Sexsomnia: Can Sleepwalking Be A Defence For Sexual Offences?


There has been recent media attention given to the use of sleepwalking as a defence against charges of rape and sexual assault.


What is Sexsomnia?


Sexsomnia is a recognized sleep disorder that causes the person, usually male, to carry out sexual acts ranging from sexual talking to sexual intercourse whilst asleep. The condition is usually first discovered during a person’s 20s or 30s, and typically sufferers of the condition have no recollection of the sexsomnia once awake. Sexsomniac incidents can be prompted by the mere presence of a person next to the sufferer, or the sufferer being nudged or touched as they sleep.


Can Sleepwalking Be A Defence for Sexual Offences?


These cases of sexsomnia (officially recognized as a sleep disorder in the International Classification of Sleep Disorders in 2005) are challenging and should not be entered into too quickly. Skilled case preparation and robust advocacy in court will be required if a sleepwalking defence is to be successful.


Sexsomnia as a defence falls within the area of automatism, meaning cases where a person totally lacked control of their body at the time of the offence not due to their own fault, and will be treated as such. Automatism is a defence available for all crimes. The defence of automatism requires that a judge must decide as a point of law whether there is the evidential basis for the defence to be presented. Expert reports will be required to establish this.


The judge will have to distinguish between insane automatism and non-insane automatism and decide which is appropriate in the case. Findings of insane automatism will result in a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity and the defendant will be made subject to a hospital order, a supervision order or an absolute discharge. Findings of non-insane automatism will result in an acquittal.


If you believe that sexsomnia could be a defence against a sexual offence you are charged with, call us urgently on 01623 397200 for free initial advice.

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