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'Sleepwalking' claim rapist jailed

A man who claimed he was sleepwalking when he raped a 17-year-old girl has been jailed for six years.

Zack Thompson, 20, maintained his defence for two-and-a-half years before finally admitting he raped the girl at a Portuguese holiday resort in 2009. Thompson's case is thought to be just the second in Britain, and the first in England, where a sleepwalking defence has been successfully challenged.

Sentencing Thompson, of Lincoln Street, Newark, at Nottingham Crown Court, Judge John Milmo QC said his crime has had a devastating effect on the victim. "She said 'I did nothing wrong', and she was absolutely right," the judge said.

Opening the case for the Crown, prosecutor Dawn Pritchard said Thompson was 18 when he raped the girl, who is now 19, while they were on holiday in Albufeira on September 12, 2009.

He said he had drunk seven or eight pints during the evening and before the offence, but could not remember anything after that. Miss Pritchard said that when asked if he had raped her, he said: "I can't remember, maybe."

He did not deny committing the act but refused to take criminal responsibility from the outset, claiming he was sleepwalking and had no memory of the attack. The judge told him that he could not rule out the possibility that his amnesia was genuine.

Nottinghamshire Police said that after liaising with the National Police Improvement Agency, lead investigator Detective Constable Paula Winfield was referred to sleep disorder expert Professor Mark Pressman, an American psychologist with over 30 years experience in diagnosing and treating sleep-related disorders.

He travelled to Nottinghamshire, where he carried out an in-depth review of the evidence, including an interview with Thompson himself, and found that his behaviour during the incident was not consistent with the actions normally displayed by sleepwalkers.

The expert concluded his memory loss was highly likely to have been the result of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, and not sleepwalking. Thompson withdrew the sleepwalking defence after it was successfully challenged.

Nottinghamshire Police said Thompson went on to claim, however, that he was insane when he committed the rape. He was assessed by an expert psychiatrist, who rejected his claims of insanity, and he finally pleaded guilty at a hearing at Nottingham Crown Court on March 1 this year.


From Belfast Telegraph