Oliver Mears: Oxford student cleared of rape charge days before trial

Prosecutors under scrutiny after collapse of fourth rape case in a month

police officer
(Image credit: Getty images)

A judge has criticised prosecutors and police after a rape case against an Oxford University student was dropped just days before the trial was due to begin.

Oliver Mears, 19, was told he was to be found not guilty following a review of the evidence, The Daily Telegraph reports. The judge questioned whether the investigation had been carried out properly and why it had dragged on for two years, The Times adds.

The Independent notes that “a string of rape cases have fallen through in little over a month after police seized phones and other devices but failed to examine them properly”.

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Scotland Yard ordered a review of all its investigations into rape and serious sexual assault following the collapse of the trials of Liam Allan, 22, and Isaac Itiary, 25.

“In such circumstances and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that there is something fundamentally wrong with the system,” says BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw.

Earlier this week, Samson Makele, 28, was also cleared of rape after the case against him collapsed as a result of previously undisclosed evidence. Lawyers for the defence unearthed pictures on the phone of the alleged victim and the defendant smiling and cuddling in bed together which police had not passed on to prosecutors, the Independent reports.

The CPS decided not there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction and dropped the case. Makele's barrister Harriet Johnson told the Independent that disclosure issues “are a recurring theme in all sexual assault cases that I’ve seen lately and in criminal trials more broadly”.

Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, “raised eyebrows” when she said that photographs and social media accounts do not necessarily need to be fully checked in rape cases, reports the Telegraph.

Saunders told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that police are obliged to pursue all reasonable lines of enquiry but “that doesn’t mean going into every single avenue of your life”.

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