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Rape case is "more likely" an episode of sleep sex, psychiatrist tells court

The man accused of rape in this case claims he was sleepwalking when he raped his female friend.

SCC R Woffenden 2 Source: Richard Woffenden

A PSYCHIATRIST WHO specialises in sleep disorders has told a rape trial that she believes the accused has a history of sleepwalking, night terrors and “sexsomnia”.

The 29-year-old man claims he was sleepwalking when he raped his female friend after they went to bed together following a night out.

The man who cannot be named for legal reasons, has pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to one count of raping the woman at an apartment in Dublin in the early hours of 28 September 2008.

Doctor Catherine Crowe, director of a sleep clinic based at the Mater Hospital, told Hugh Hartnett SC, defending that she believed the alleged rape was “more likely” an episode of sleep sex.

Dr Crowe earlier told the jury she met with the accused in October 2010. He had already undergone a sleep study at the Edinburgh Sleep Centre. He had also been assessed by a neurologist and had a MRI to determine if he was suffering from sleep epilepsy.

She said epilepsy had been ruled out but a sleep deprived EEG, a test that detects electrical activity in the brain, showed up as abnormal.


Dr Crowe said she assessed the accused clinically, taking into account his sleep study, the MRI, the EEG, his personal history, family history, a sleep diary and home videos of the man sleeping before diagnosing him as having parasomnia, going back to early adolescence, (sleepwalking) including sexsomnia.

Dr Crowe said the man had a history of sexsomnia before the alleged rape and according to his former girlfriend, continued to have sleep sex afterwards.

“The event on the night could have been a sexsomnia episode. I don’t know, I wasn’t there. It is up to the court to deal with that,” Dr Crowe said.

She clarified when questioned further by Mr Hartnett that she thought it was “more likely” a sexsomnia episode, given the pattern of his behaviour.

“The end point was different,” Dr Crowe said referring to the alleged rape but she said it was “otherwise very similar” to sexsomnia episodes which the jury have previously heard evidence of from three earlier witnesses.

She told the jury she heard evidence during the trial and read witnesses statements and felt there was no contradiction to her diagnosis.

“There was no time that I thought ‘Oh no I think I have got this wrong.’ There was a consistency to the story that seemed valid to me,” Dr Crowe said.


Dr Crowe agreed with Paddy McGrath SC, prosecuting that what is alleged is “a serious violation of the complainant” and said it was “absolutely correct” that she never initiated sex nor did she ever consent to it.

Dr Crowe said she never believed that the sex was consensual. “There was no dispute of what had happened and that the accused was the instigator,” she continued.

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She agreed with Mr McGrath that she was not aware of the complainant’s evidence before she compiled her report but said having heard the evidence it doesn’t change her mind over her conclusion.

Dr Crowe accepted that this incident was the only evidence of full penetrative sex during the trial but added “it doesn’t jar on me”.

She said she believed that this may be due to the fact that it took the complainant “a while to wake up” given the fact she was sleep deprived and had significant amount of alcohol taken.

She said she believed the accused came to a state of semi-consciousness following sex after he woke up to the complainant speaking to him.

Dr Crowe accepted that the complainant gave evidence of a conversation between the accused and herself, unlike the other sexsomnia episodes the jury has heard.

She said she believed evidence from the complainant that the accused was awake minutes after sex, sitting up in bed, was not significant. She said what was important was whether he was awake when he put his penis in her vagina.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and a jury of eight men and four women.

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