06/18/2024 - UK Expert WItness News: "Blundell's Hammer Attack Accused was in ‘Defensive Mode”, Court Told by Sleep Expert Witness"

A teenage pupil from a boarding school in Devon is facing trial for a violent hammer attack on two fellow students and his housemaster. The defense barrister, Kerim Fuad KC told Exeter Crown Court the teenager was being blackmailed by a "thoroughly despicable person". The incidents occurred at Blundell's School in Tiverton on June 9, 2023. The 17-year-old defendant, whose identity remains confidential due to his age, has been charged with attempted murder but denies these charges. The defense claim the the perpetrator was a victim of a cruel, sophisticated, deceiver "It was on his mind every second," he said.

Incident Overview
The violent episode unfolded when the defendant allegedly assaulted his two roommates and housemaster with a hammer while they were asleep. The victims sustained significant injuries from the attack, which has led to a high-profile court case. The barrister said the housemaster Henry Roffe-Silvester was the only real independent witness on the day and gave a detailed account. In his evidence Rolfe-silvester did not think the defendant realised it was him he was attacking. He said he was wide eyed and ‘snapped out of it’ easily.

Expert Testimony
During the trial at Exeter Crown Court, sleep forensic expert Dr. Mark Pressman provided critical testimony. Dr. Pressman challenged the prosecution's assertion that the defendant was in a "killing rage" during the attacks. Instead, he argued that the defendant was in a "defensive rage," indicating a different psychological state at the time of the incident.

Key Points from Dr. Pressman:
1. Nature of Rage: Dr. Pressman emphasized that the defendant was not driven by a desire to kill but was acting out in a state of defensive rage.
2. Sleepwalking Defense: The defense's main argument is that the defendant was sleepwalking during the attacks. Dr. Pressman supported this by highlighting the unusual behavior and lack of conscious intent typically associated with sleepwalking.
3. Stress Factors: Dr. Pressman noted that the defendant was under extreme stress, primarily due to academic pressures and a blackmail situation involving a woman threatening to expose nude photographs he had shared.

Prosecution's Argument
Prosecutor James Dawes KC countered Dr. Pressman's testimony, suggesting that the expert was attempting to fit the evidence into a preconceived theory. Dawes argued that the sequence of events and the nature of the attacks indicated premeditated violence rather than an unconscious state. James Dawes KC, prosecuting, contested, Dr Pressman "put the cart before the horse" and was trying to fit the evidence around a theory.

Court Deliberation
The court heard detailed arguments from both sides, with the prosecution presenting their case of deliberate, violent intent, while the defense maintained that the defendant’s actions were involuntary due to sleepwalking, exacerbated by severe stress and blackmail.

The trial highlights the complex interplay of psychological states and external pressures in understanding the defendant's actions. The case continues to unfold, with the court considering expert testimonies and evidence to reach a verdict.

Current Status
The trial is ongoing, with further testimonies and deliberations expected to shed more light on the incident and the defendant's state of mind at the time of the attack.

Sleep expertsare most often pulmonologists, neurologists,or psychiatrists who have completed additional training in sleep medicine. Sleep experts assist the jury in deciding the mental state of the accused at the time of their alleged criminal behaviour.