The trial of an Oxford student for rape and sexual assault has been dropped days before the case was due to be heard in court.
St. Hugh’s chemist Oliver Mears, who matriculated in October 2016, voluntarily suspended his studies after being accused of assaulting a women in July 2015, when he was 17.
Mears, from Horley in Surrey, has spent more than two years on bail. His trial, which was due to begin on Monday, has been abandoned this week.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) requested that a judge record a ‘not guilty’ verdict, citing that evidence had been reviewed by a “new set of eyes”.
Prosecutor Sarah Lindop told Judge Jonathan Black at Guildford Crown Court that the decision not to advance with the case was in light of fresh examination of a diary and digital evidence. She said this “tips the balance” in favour of the 19-year old.
According to the Daily Mail, it is believed lawyers for the student, claimed evidence that would prove Mears’ innocence had not yet been disclosed.
One St. Hugh’s student told Cherwell: “The whole process seems ridiculous frankly.
“The CPS and the police need to get their act together and realise that it’s as important to protect innocent people as it is to secure convictions.
“Keeping people under allegations for so long is just cruel.”
A CPS spokesperson said: “We keep all cases under continual review. Following a review of this case, prosecutors were not satisfied there was a realistic prospect of conviction as the evidential test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors was not met.
“We therefore decided to offer no evidence.”
They also maintained that the decision to withdraw this case was not made because of an earlier failure to disclose evidence. According to the BBC, prosecutor Lindhop said in court that there were “some disclosure matters” but “this is not a disclosure case per se”.
Surrey Police said it “deeply regrets mistakes made in the efficacy of investigations.” They noted that officers did not follow “what we would consider to be a reasonable line of enquiry.” An internal review has been launched.
The judge criticised “unnecessary delays” in the case. For those involved, he said, the case had been “hanging over their heads” for two years.
Judge Black ordered the head of the CPS rape and sexual offences unit contact him within 28 days “with a full explanation of what went wrong.” This will inform whether later action needs to be taken “at CPS or police level.”
The news follows the Metropolitan Police’s recent announcement that it would review all sex crime investigations in which a suspect had been charged.
This came after the CPS chose to offer no evidence against Liam Allen and Isaacy Itiary following the late disclosure of evidence which worked to in the defendants’ favour.
St. Hugh’s College would not respond to the particulars of the individual case, but told Cherwell that “it is a matter for Oliver to decide when he wishes to return.”
Oxford University declined to comment.