Crime committed under the state of sleepwalking gets immunity under the defense of ‘Automatism’.
In Shakespeare's famous play Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is mentioned to be a sleepwalker. While sleepwalking does not, by itself, pose a health concern, accidents may occur, as the subject performs without the control of a conscious mind.
If an individual commits a criminal offence while sleepwalking, the defense of automatism may be invoked to assist a fair trial for the guilty.
Automatism is an unconscious movement associated with sleep disorders like narcolepsy and is often used as an excuse to liability, which negates the existence of the "guilty act". This is often found to be complex and sometimes controversial. There are quite a few interesting incidents on sleepwalking that are reported from time to time. Some of the case histories are presented.
Case: 1 - 'Sleepwalker' accused of murder
A man accused of battering his father to death has told a court he was sleepwalking at the time.
Jules Lowe, 32, of Walkden, Greater Manchester, admitted causing the injuries, which killed his father, but said he cannot remember the event.
The body of 83-year-old Edward Lowe was found in the driveway of his home in Windmill Road, Walkden, on 30 October.
Jules Lowe denied the murder of his father and pleads not guilty on defense of "automatism".
The trial continues.
(Source: The BBC)
Case: 2 - Teen sleepwalks to the top of crane
A teenage sleepwalker was rescued after being found asleep on the arm of a 130ft crane, police revealed.
Police and firefighters were called to a building site in southeast London, after a passer-by spotted the girl.
The unnamed 15-year-old had apparently left her home near the site, climbed the crane and walked across a narrow beam while remaining fast asleep.
She was eventually brought down by hydraulic lift and taken to hospital for checks but was found to have suffered no ill effects.
Expert Irshaad Ebrahim, of the London Sleep Centre, told the Times newspaper that he had treated people who had driven cars and ridden horses while asleep. He said one patient had even attempted to fly a helicopter.
(Source: The BBC)