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Mental health panel rules sexsomniac ‘not a significant risk’

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A Toronto landscaper who raped a woman in his sleep may be released soon with no strings attached after a team of mental-hospital psychiatrists concluded yesterday that he presents no significant threat to the community.

The assessment was provided to an Ontario Review Board panel that will decide the fate of Jan Luedecke – a 37-year-old man who was acquitted of sexual assault in 2006 on the basis of an exceedingly rare condition known as sexsomnia, but remains under the jurisdiction of the mental-health system.

The five-person panel, which can choose from a broad spectrum of outcomes – from an absolute discharge to indefinite detention – reserved its decision late yesterday. However, recommendations from hospital psychiatrists are typically persuasive in cases where individuals have been found not criminally responsible by the courts.

“I have not said that he is no risk – I have said that he is not a significant risk,” Lisa Ramshaw, a psychiatrist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, told the panel. “It is impossible to say that he is no risk.”

Dr. Ramshaw described Mr. Luedecke as “an outlier” – a sex offender who has led an otherwise blameless life and shows no propensity to exhibit sexually deviant or antisocial behaviour.

However, Crown counsel Michael Feindel strongly objected to Mr. Luedecke being granted an absolute discharge, noting that he may attack other women in his sleep in future – whether or not he has an angelic disposition when he is conscious.

Mr. Feindel noted that on four occasions a sleeping Mr. Luedecke has initiated sexual activity with a partner or a girlfriend whom he was sleeping beside.

“Given the lack of knowledge we have about these things, it sounds incautious to me to leave it to Mr. Luedecke to self-manage,” Mr. Feindel said. “The victim in a case like this is virtually defenceless. They never have a chance to see what is coming at them.”

The bizarre incident took place on July 3, 2003. When the victim, L.O., awakened on a sofa at a late-night party, Mr. Luedecke – a windsurfing aficionado employed by a landscaping company, Mr. Sod – was mounting her. The victim was immediately struck by the bewildered look on her assailant’s face.

Mr. Luedecke, who had a history of sleepwalking, argued at trial that he had sexsomnia, and thus could not be found guilty. After the Crown appealed his acquittal, the Ontario Court of Appeal directed that another judge consider the possibility of a verdict of not criminally responsible, leaving him under the jurisdiction of the review board.

Mr. Feindel was also critical of Mr. Luedecke yesterday for deciding unilaterally to stop taking a medication, clonazepam, that his psychiatrist had prescribed. The medication was intended to prevent Mr. Luedecke from descending into a deep level of sleep where he would be more likely to commit another sexual assault.

However, Mr. Luedecke’s lawyer, Frank Addario, told that panel that whether or not it was advisable for his client to have ceased taking clonazepam, his clean record in the four years since proves that he is not a risk to the public.

In a tearful impact statement yesterday, L.O. said she is frequently afraid at night and no longer enjoys social gatherings. “I do not trust strangers and am doubting that I will ever feel 100-per-cent safe again,” she told the board. “I feel that I live life as a paranoid person.”

Mr. Addario said Mr. Luedecke was horrified by the trauma that he caused his victim, as well as by the havoc it has wreaked in his own life.

CTVglobemedia Publishing, Inc

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