An Oxford University student spent two years on bail accused of rape because police claimed they were too busy dealing with other reports in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, a damning report has revealed.
Just days before he was due to stand trial in January this year, prosecutors announced they were dropping the case due to insufficient evidence.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has admitted the police and lawyers had made a string of blunders which had prolonged Mr Mears' ordeal.
In the letter a senior prosecutor explained that Mr Mears - who was studying Chemistry at St Hugh's College, Oxford - had been accused of rape in July 2015, but Surrey Police had not passed a file of evidence to the CPS, for a charging decision until May 2017.
The letter said: “Surrey Police have accepted that the investigation was protracted and subject to various delays.
"The delay in the investigation was as a result of the rapid rise in complaints being made to the Surrey Police force post Savile.”
A ‘rape specialist prosecutor’ then authorised the decision to charge, Mr Mears, weeks later on 21 June 2017.
In a report sent to the the court in February, a senior crown prosecutor wrote: “I fully accept that this case was not properly handled from the beginning and acknowledge the distress and impact that the proceedings and the late decision not to proceed have had on both the defendant and the complainant which cannot be underestimated.”
The prosecutor went on: “Having analysed the case and the material upon which the decision to charge was made, I am of the opinion that this case was charged too early.
“It was apparent from the initial material supplied by Surrey Police that Facebook messaging and other communications over social media had relevance to the case.
“These had been exhibited within the statements of the witnesses and so were clearly available.”
It also emerged that despite the victim keeping a diary, only one page of its contents was shared with the defence team.
The letter acknowledged that the prosecutor who authorised the charges against Mr Mears should have made further enquiries about messages exchanged on Facebook.
When the case was reviewed on 5 January 2018, the reviewing lawyer concluded there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to proceed, according to the report.
When the full copy was provided on 15 January this ‘served to weaken the case further’.
The senior crown prosecutor said: “I took the view that the case should not have been charged due to there being insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.
“The information contained in the diary and the confirmation that Surrey Police had failed to seize the digital devices of the complainant and the resultant impact that had on the integrity of the police investigation only served to confirm this view.”
Mr Mears, from Horley in Surrey, was arrested just weeks after celebrating his 17th birthday, decided to leave Oxford as a result of the strain he was under and to concentrate on proving his innocence. The alleged incident had taken place at a large house party in his hometown.
The college said he would be welcomed back. A St Hugh’s College spokesman said: “It was the student’s choice to suspend his studies. Students who suspend their studies can make the choice whether to come back or not.”
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