Seaham sleepwalker not guilty of sex assault due to 'insanity'

A 21-year-old man with a history of sleepwalking has been told he may need treatment after a jury found he was asleep when he sexually assaulted a woman.

Wednesday, 21st August 2019, 11:43 am
Dale Kelly leaves York Crown Court after he was cleared by a jury of sexually assaulting his friends girlfriend because he was sleepwalking at the time. Ben Lack

Dale Kelly, of Dalton-le-Dale near Seaham, was found not guilty of sexual assault by penetration by reason of insanity after he sleepwalked into a couple's bedroom, got into their bed and touched the woman intimately.

A jury at York Crown Court took just over two hours to decide that Kelly had committed the offence but was suffering from the sleep disorder parasomnia at the time - meaning he was not responsible for his actions.

Kelly, who stood in the dock wearing a navy suit and pale blue tie, hung his head and wept as the jury returned its verdict.

The case was heard at York Crown Court.

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Family members sitting in the public gallery gasped and comforted each other.

The week-long trial heard that Kelly had been to a nightclub. He then went to a house with a man and a woman.

Kelly fell asleep during the journey in the taxi and went straight to bed when they arrived at the house but, around an hour later, the woman awoke to find him in the bed she was sharing with the man.

She said she believed Kelly had sexually assaulted her and called the police.

Kelly said he was dreaming at the time and thought he was with a woman he was dating.

After his arrest, Kelly underwent tests, during which he experienced episodes of parasomnia, which can include sleepwalking.

The court heard that he had suffered from parasomnia since childhood and experts said he was "possibly" or "likely to be" suffering from the disorder at the time of the alleged assault but they could not say for certain.

Eleanor Fry, defending, said the defendant could not say what happened that morning as he was asleep at the time.

The "special verdict" of not guilty by reason of insanity can be returned in circumstances where the jury find the defendant has committed an act but is suffering from a condition - in this case parasomnia - which means they cannot be responsible for their actions at the time.

Following this verdict, the court can order the defendant to be admitted to a hospital, make a guardianship, supervision or treatment order, or order an absolute discharge.

Judge Simon Hickey said: "This has not been an easy case and not a straightforward case, it is an unusual case."

The judge outlined the sentencing options available to him and adjourned the case until a later date when he said experts will address the issues.

He said that doctors in the case believed Kelly's "mental disorder" was treatable and needs treating.

He said: "My sentencing options are limited.

"At the moment, I'm leaning towards a hospital order but I will wait to hear what the experts say."

Kelly was granted conditional bail and will be sentenced on Monday, September 23.