‘It sets a chilling precedent’: Woman sues CPS after it drops rape case for claiming she suffers from sexsomnia | UK News

Thirteen days before the man accused of raping her was due on trial, Jade McCrossen-Nethercott was told her case was dropped.

After a phone call from the police the day before, the then 24-year-old met with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

They told her that because she was sleeping at the time of the incident, two sleep experts employed by the defense team had claimed that she could have suffered from a random episode of “sexsomnia” – and that the business was no longer viable.

Sexsomnia is a rare sleep disorder that causes people to engage in sexual activity while unconscious.

In her statement to police after the 2017 incident, she briefly mentioned that she was a deep sleeper and sleepwalker on a few occasions when she was a teenager – but in the three years since that had never happened again. been mentioned.

“It was the first time I had heard of it,” she told Sky News.

“I was trying to figure it out. It didn’t make sense to me. It was confusing. I was completely shocked.”

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Photo: BBC

Ms McCrossen-Nethercott had returned to a friend’s house for drinks after a night out in south London when she woke up feeling like she had been sexually assaulted.

She had fallen asleep on the couch around 2 a.m. and woke up about three hours later, naked from the waist down and with her necklace broken on the floor.

A man, whose semen was later found on her vaginal swabs, sat next to her on the sofa.

Asking him what happened, he replied, “I thought you were awake.”

Ms McCrossen-Nethercott reported him to the police, underwent forensic tests and the man was charged with rape.

He had made no comment to police, pleaded not guilty in magistrates court and was due to appear in Crown Court in just under two weeks when the CPS closed the case.

“I made some jaded comments to the police about sleepwalking when I was younger.

“They were hanging on to straws, they were the ones freaking out,” she said.

The sleep experts had never met or spoken to her

With the right to appeal the CPS decision, she requested all documents in the case, including those related to the two sleep experts.

“These two experts had never spoken to me on the phone – let alone met in person,” Ms McCrossen-Nethercott said.

“Their decision was based on a 15-question questionnaire – and the accused’s statement.

“It was so loosely put together – this ‘quarrel’ that I had sexsomnia.”

She then commissioned her own sleep expert, from the London Sleep Centre, to provide rebuttal evidence.

He had never met an alleged victim with the disease. In the UK, only those accused of rape or sexual assault have claimed to have had it – using it as a defence.

The expert also explained that it usually happens in men – who have had a history of it before.

Photo: BBC
Image:
Photo: BBC

Sleep tests commissioned by him showed Ms McCrossen-Nethercott suffered from mild sleep apnea – when breathing briefly stops and then starts again during sleep.

Because it’s been identified as one of the sexsomnia triggers, he said he couldn’t rule out an isolated episode.

“Sleep apnea is so common that many people don’t even know they have it,” she said.

Determined to prove the CPS wrong, she turned to a lawyer instead.

By law in England and Wales, a person cannot consent to sex while they are sleeping.

But someone can’t be found guilty of raping someone if they can prove they had a “reasonable belief” that the other person was consenting.

The lawyer, who has defended men in sexsomnia cases, said sleep and medical experts are never able to definitively prove that someone has the disorder.

This means it could be used to convince a jury that someone is not guilty.

Finally, she filed her appeal.

The CPS review ruled that the decision was wrong

A retired crown prosecutor who was not involved in the original case concluded that it should have gone to trial.

He said the defendant’s sleep experts and sexsomnia allegations should have been cross-examined.

Ultimately, he thought it was “more likely than not” that the defendant would have been convicted by a jury.

But despite his verdict and an apology from the CPS, the case cannot be reopened because the man has been formally acquitted and there are laws against double jeopardy.

Ms McCrossen-Nethercott told Sky News that with only 1.3% of rape cases resulting in prosecution in England and Wales, she did not expect the case to go to trial.

But when told there would be one, she said: “I was hopeful and optimistic.

“I felt confident in the way I reported what happened.”

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With the help of the Center for Women’s Justice, she has now submitted a letter of complaint to sue the CPS on human rights grounds.

“CPS let me down and they let down all the other women and girls,” she said.

“I did everything I could and yet nothing can be done.

“It’s really hard to heal from something that doesn’t make sense.”

After further communications with the CPS last year, the 30-year-old was unable to work for six months due to mental health issues.

“Last year I had some really bad dark times. But I’m in a better place now, with the support of my friends, family and partner.”

A CPS spokesperson said in a statement: “We have offered our unreserved apologies to the victim in this matter. The expert evidence and the defendant’s account should have been challenged and put to a jury to decide. .

“We are committed to improving every aspect of how life-changing crimes like rape are handled and are working closely with police to transform the way they are handled.

“We remain positive about the progress being made, but recognize that there is still a long way to go for more victims to come forward and report with confidence.”

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