30/03/2012

Rapist Given Six Years After "Sleepwalking" Defence Successfully Challenged

A 20-year-old man who maintained for two and a half years that he was sleepwalking when he raped a 17-year-old girl at a Portuguese holiday resort in 2009 has been jailed for six years.

Thought to be just the second case in Britain where a sleepwalking defence has been successfully challenged, Zack Thompson finally admitted the rape.

In 2011 John Docherty of Glasgow was found guilty of attempted murder, despite claiming he was sleepwalking at the time.

Judge John Milmo said the crime had had a devastating effect on the victim, "She said 'I did nothing wrong', and she was absolutely right."

"I only hope that today will mark an occasion when she can go back to being the happy young girl she used to be."

Thompson, 18 at the time, was on holiday in Albufeira. He said he had drunk seven or eight pints, but could not remember anything after that. When asked if he had raped the girl, he said: "I can't remember, maybe."

The victim had returned to the UK immediately after the rape and reported it to the police.

Thompson handed himself into the police when he returned home. He did not deny the attack but refused to take criminal responsibility from the outset, claiming he was sleepwalking and had no memory of it. The judge said he could not rule out the possibility the amnesia was genuine.

During research into sleepwalking as a criminal defence Nottinghamshire police were referred to Professor Mark Pressman, an American psychologist with more than 30 years' experience in diagnosing and treating sleep-related disorders.

Upon reviewing the evidence and interviewing Thompson himself he found that his behaviour during the attack was not consistent with the actions normally displayed by sleepwalkers.

He found Thompson's memory loss began around half an hour before he went to bed, and concluded it was likely to have been the result of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

After the successful challenge Thompson finally withdrew the sleepwalking defence.

Thompson then went on to claim that he was insane when he committed the rape. He was assessed by an expert psychiatrist, who rejected the claim, and he finally pleaded guilty at Nottingham crown court in March.

A statement made by the family of the victim said: "We are thrilled that justice has been done and that he will finally have to pay for what he did - but the ordeal does not end here.

"We have not walked away from court today free of this nightmare and, though we are hopeful for the future, we are sure our lives will never be the same again."

(H)

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