'Sex sleep' defence in rape case sees Oz legislators passing new law

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Melbourne, May 9 (ANI): When an Aussie jury found a man not guilty of rape after "sex sleep" was used as defence, the Northern Territory has decided to pass new laws.

Leonard Andrew Spencer was acquitted last May of having gotten into his 21-year-old guest's bed at his home at Nhulunbuy, northeast Arnhem Land, in the early morning of June 2007.

Spencer, who claimed he had no recollection of the event, was accused of gross indecency and sexual intercourse without consent.

However, his lawyer argued that he was asleep at the time and depressed over his marriage break-up.

Towards the end of the trial, the defence called on psychiatrist Lester Walton who told the jury that Spencer might have suffered from the condition "sex sleep".

The incident has prompted NT Parliament to pass laws that prohibit lawyers from calling expert witnesses without prior notice, and NT Attorney-General Delia Lawrie has said that the legislation would make Supreme Court trials "fairer and more efficient".

"During the so-called "sexsomnia" case the defence called on an expert witness late in the trial and it can be argued that the prosecution was unable to prove its case," the Courier Mail quoted Lawrie as saying.

"(They) didn't have enough time to adequately challenge the expert's testimony...," she said.

"The Henderson government wants Supreme Court jury trials to be as fair as possible to allparties concerned, and that's why we have introduced this legislation," she added.

Lawrie said that the NT's Criminal Code Amendment (Expert Evidence) Bill brought the NT into line with Victoria, South Australian, Western Australia and Queensland.

"While most defence lawyers do provide adequate notice, public prosecutors have certainly had experiences where they are told at the 11th hour the defence expert's name but have had no real opportunity of challenging their expertise due to time or cost constraints," she stated.

"The bill provides certainty and consistency," she added.

Lawrie said that the bill amended the Criminal Code to make the trial process fairer, reduce trauma to witnesses and cut court time and costs. (ANI)

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