East Lothian man walks free from court after being found not guilty of sexually assaulting woman in Edinburgh

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An East Lothian workman who claimed he was sleepwalking during an alleged sex assault on a flatmate has walked free from court.

Christopher Palmer, 30, was said to have fondled the woman's breast after walking into her bedroom in the middle of the night. Palmer was alleged to have grabbed the woman by the wrists before inappropriately touching her breast during the incident in a shared flat in Edinburgh in 2022.

The self-employed painter and decorator told a trial earlier this year he had no recollection of the alleged sex assault because he was sleepwalking at the time.

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Palmer said he has suffered from the sleep disorder since childhood and following the incident he went back to bed unaware anything had happened until the police woke him shortly after.

Christopher Palmer was found not guilty of assaulting the womanChristopher Palmer was found not guilty of assaulting the woman
Christopher Palmer was found not guilty of assaulting the woman | Alexander Lawrie

Solicitor Stephanie Clinkscale, defending, lodged “a self defence of automatism” on behalf of her client and a specialist report had been prepared into his condition.

The alleged victim told the trial she shared a flat with Palmer and had only met a couple of times before she claimed he entered her bedroom and assaulted her.

The woman said she was lying in bed playing a computer game when her bedroom door was unexpectedly opened by Palmer at around 2am.

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She claimed he “lunged” onto her bed and sat on her legs and grabbed hold of her wrists leading her to start “screaming and shouting” to get off her. The woman said: “He told me to be quiet and stop screaming. He didn’t look aggressive, he looked a bit spaced.

“I managed to free my right wrist and started digging my nails into his face but there was no reaction. With his left hand he was touching my breast. I was terrified, angry and scared.”

The woman said two other flat mates heard her shouting and rushed to her aid and ushered him from her room. She told the trial she had immediately phoned the police and officers arrived at the property shortly after.

Palmer told the court he had been alone in his bedroom all evening and had drunk two bottles of wine before falling asleep around midnight.

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He said he woke up in the hallway beside one flat mate and had “assumed” he had been at the toilet before then heading back to his bedroom and going to sleep.

He said: “I believe I was sleepwalking as I have previously. I had no idea anything had happened and was going back to sleep. I was not really aware how I’d got there. I went back to bed and the next thing I knew there was a knock on the door and it was the police.”

Palmer, now of Musselburgh, East Lothian, added: “I don’t remember anything happening and I must have been sleepwalking and accidentally gone into her room. I feel bad there was an altercation but I had no intention of harming her in any way.”

Following the evidence on day two of the trial this week, Sheriff Francis Gill found Palmer not guilty of assaulting the woman by seizing her on the body and sexually assaulting the same woman by seizing her by the breast at an address in Edinburgh, on February 12, 2022.

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