Sleep walking driver banned for dangerous driving


A driver who claimed that he was in a state of automatism, having suffered an episode of parasomnia, and then drove 150 miles from his home near Ormskirk, Lancashire, down the M5 motorway until he crashed into another vehicle near to the Strensham Services in Worcestershire, has today been banned from driving at Shrewsbury Crown Court.

At an earlier hearing, David Hamnett, aged 47, was found guilty of dangerous driving after the court heard how he had driven his car in the early hours of 9 July 2011 and drove dangerously at speeds exceeding 100mph.

He eventually hit another car on the southbound M5 between junction 7 and 8, which resulted in Mr Hamnett's car coming to a rest on top of the central barrier.

Emergency services, who had to later cut him free from his car, found him wearing only a T-shirt, jogging bottoms and no shoes or socks, Hamnett claiming that these were the clothes he wore to bed.

Hamnett was given a Community Order for 12 months under the supervision of the Probation Service, he was also disqualified from driving for six months and required to take an extended driving test before his licence is restored.  Mr Hamnet was also requested to pay £2500 towards the costs of the prosecution

Phillip Beardwell, Crown Advocate from West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service, said:

"Throughout this prosecution, David Hamnett has maintained a defence that his dangerous driving was as a result of him sleepwalking that night. He even produced a defence expert to support his claim that he had suffered from sleep disorder throughout his life.

"However, the prosecution were able to produce an expert witness who confirmed that it was highly unlikely that anyone could sleepwalk for a period of two-and-a-half hours and drive a car for over 150 miles. In fact, neither of the two eminent scientists could cite a recorded example of anyone sleepwalking for this length of time.

"Following a two day trial at Shrewsbury Crown Court, the jury did not accept the defendant's versions of events and he was found guilty of dangerous driving.

"Mr Hamnett's actions not only put his own life in danger but those of fellow motorists. He is very lucky that through his erratic driving there were no fatalities."