Recently there have been a number of cases in the press of male defendants going to trial charged with a serious sexual assault which they claim that they have committed whilst they were asleep. This condition is known as sexsomnia.
Sleep related sexual behaviour / sexsomnia is when a person performs a sexual act when they are asleep and they have no knowledge of what has happened and are not in control of their actions. This is a serious condition that can result in possibly being prosecuted of rape or sexual assault when the other party says that they were not consenting.
The legal process in raising this defence
Sexsomnia was officially recognised as a sleep disorder in the international classification of sleep disorders in 2005.
It is difficult to assess if a person is suffering with this condition and expert reports are necessary to be able to advance this defence before the court.
When instructed the expert will meet with the client and other family members or friends who have witnessed how the client acts when he is asleep. This information will be considered alongside any medical records and a detailed report will be prepared.
Usually the prosecution will also instruct their own expert to comment on this defence.
The decision as to whether the jury are allowed to consider sexsomnia as a possible defence is made by the judge having heard evidence from both experts.
What should I do if I find myself charged with a sexual offence and I suffer from sexsomnia?
It is essential that in preparing such a defence that a client has an experienced legal team who specialises in this area of law who will handle your case with sensitivity. Miss Platt is head of the crime department and has considerable experience in representing people who suffer with this condition. If you are being investigated by the police or have been charged with a sexual offence it is essential that you seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity. For free initial advice please contact the department on 0175 321 6399 or complete our online enquiry form.