Sleepwalking ‘sexsomnia’ rapist convicted of two attacks

Short has been jailed in England
Short has been jailed in England

AN army sergeant who was cleared of raping a woman in the Lothians after prosecutors accepted he was sleepwalking at the time has been jailed for two sex attacks in England.

Joseph Short, 30, was charged by police in 2011 over an alleged rape in Midlothian, after he was posted to Edinburgh as a soldier.

He left his victim, with whom he had been in a casual relationship, with serious injuries but the Crown decided not to take the case to court, after doctors agreed he was suffering from “sexsomnia” – a contested medical condition meaning he carries out sexual behaviour while asleep.

However, earlier this month a jury at Birmingham Crown Court found him guilty of two counts of rape against a woman in Waltham Abbey, Essex, in 2014, and sexually assaulting another woman in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, in June last year.

They rejected his claims of “sexsomnia” after a medical expert told the jury he had given Short advice on how to avoid harming women, but was ignored.

Short has now been jailed for 11 years, with his licence period on release extended by a further four years.

Following his sentencing, his Scottish victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has spoken out.

In an interview with a Sunday newspaper, she said: “I feel we need a debate about this so-called condition. Nobody even tried to explain it to me.

“Does having sexsomnia give you a licence to rape women? I’m glad he’s in jail, but sorry it took another two victims to suffer.

“I know what he did to me and I was wide awake. But I’ve moved on, he’s in the past.”

She added: “If they’d put my case to a jury I think he’d have been found guilty and he wouldn’t have been free to attack the two women down south.”

Sexsomnia falls within the broad class of sleep disorders, known as parasomnias. Its diagnosis relies heavily on the evidence of partners and ex-partners, who can describe how incidents of attempting sex while asleep have occurred.

At the time of the incident in Midlothian, Short was also awaiting trial for another attack in Hull but was cleared of that.

The Crown Office said: “The Crown reserves the right to re-raise proceedings should further evidence come to light.”

A spokesman for the Army said: “We can confirm Joseph Short is a former member of the Army, however we do not comment on individual cases and are not prepared to release any personal information.”