Saturday, November 05, 2016

Couple who were accused of rape say their lives were ruined by the two-year 'nightmare' before they were cleared of the charge in just two minutes

A couple who were cleared of rape in just two minutes say their lives were ruined by their two-year 'nightmare'.

Neil Coulson and Joanne Evans were both charged with raping a woman, an offence which could have seen them jailed for up to 19 years.

But, after a two-year wait for the trial, the couple were cleared in a matter of minutes when the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) offered no evidence and dropped the charge.

The couple, from Clavering, Hartlepool, say they are ecstatic with the result, but that the damaging allegations have ruined their lives.

Mother-of-three Ms Evans, 36, said she was forced to close her salon business, was prescribed anti-depressants and was put under the watch of social services.

She said: 'We both think rape is an absolutely monstrous, horrendous crime and for us to be accused of it was absolutely devastating.

'I felt suicidal. We were shattered, broken and devastated. We couldn't believe it had happened.'

The couple were first investigated in January last year when a woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, claimed she had been raped by the pair.  

Mr Coulson and Ms Evans then spent 23 hours being quizzed at Hartlepool Police Station. There, Mr Coulson was stripped and had DNA samples taken from him.

The case was dropped last April when police took no further action, they say.

But, one year later, the allegation resurfaced and they were both charged. A trial was then fixed for early next year.

Ms Evans said: 'We had just had a baby, we had moved on with our lives. I was traumatised even though we were confident nothing was going to come of it. 'I have never had a proper night's sleep since April. But as difficult as it was, we both continued to hold our heads up high.'

Mr Coulson, 37, a multi-coded welder said it had a 'knock on effect on everyone'.  'I could have got sacked being branded with that kind of thing. I've lost out on jobs because of it,' he said.

But their nightmare was over last Tuesday when they were informed that the charge would be dropped. The following day, they were formally found not guilty by a judge.

Ms Evans said: 'I was just overjoyed. No words can describe.'

She praised the support of family and friends adding: 'Not one single person doubted us. 'I think it is because we have been so strong and our friends and family have been so strong that's what has got us through.'

But the couple were critical of the CPS for charging them after the case was initially dropped.

Ms Evans said: 'In that time it ruined our lives. It was basically a whole waste of time. Things like this make it harder for real victims to get justice.'

The couple say they are looking forward to Christmas now that the 'awful black cloud' has been lifted from them. Mr Coulson added: 'Basically, we have just got to rebuild our lives.'

A Crown Prosecution Service spokesman said: 'In all cases, it is the duty of prosecutors to ensure that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.

'Criminal cases are kept under continuous review to ensure that charges are supported by sufficient evidence. 'During a recent case review, in consultation with Prosecution Counsel, it became clear that there was not a realistic prospect of conviction. 'As a result, the decision was taken by the Crown to formally offer no evidence in this case.'

Original report here

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