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Man cleared of raping tragic student says accused should not be identified

By Matthew Cooper

A former student has called for defendants accused of sexual offences to be given anonymity after being acquitted of raping a 22-year-old woman who took her own life.

Elgan Varney offered his condolences to the family of Keele University student Hannah Stubbs after the CPS offered no evidence against him during a hearing at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court.

Hannah, who was studying physiotherapy, killed herself in August 2015 while police were investigating her claims against Mr Varney.

In a statement Mr Varney questioned the timing of the prosecutors' decision to drop the case four days before a trial was due to begin.

The 33-year-old, formerly of Newcastle-under-Lyme, stated: "This is not a time of celebration for me - quite simply, I should never have been charged and put through this horrendous ordeal.

"I will sadly never know the exact reasons for Hannah's actions. My anger and frustration is directed at the police and the CPS, who have had overwhelming evidence from the outset that no crime was committed."

Mr Varney, whose QC described the aborted prosecution as "terribly disturbing and distressing" for all those involved, said he had been looking forward to the facts of the case coming out at trial.

Calling for a change in the law to provide anonymity to those charged with but not convicted of sexual offences, Mr Varney added: "I fully believe that all sexual allegations should be investigated in a robust, fair and balanced manner and offenders should be brought to justice. However, in the current climate it's far too easy for innocent people to be falsely accused.

"Police and CPS policy offers no protection to those wrongfully accused and many lives are left in tatters. It is a problem that has to be acknowledged and not ignored for fear of putting genuine victims off reporting."

Mr Varney claimed there was an "awful stigma" surrounding sexual allegations and said the impact of having his name in the media associated with abhorrent allegations, despite being innocent, had been nightmarish.

The CPS said the case had been kept under regular review and prosecutors were no longer satisfied that there was a realistic prospect of conviction.

Prosecutors have met with the family of the complainant to explain the reasons for the decision, a CPS spokesman said.

In a statement, Hannah's parents Paul and Mandy Stubbs thanked people for their support over the past 19 months.

"Our overwhelming feeling is one of loss," they said.

Mr Varney was cleared by Judge John Fletcher of two counts of rape and one of sexual assault after prosecutor Karim Khalil QC said the decision not to continue the prosecution had been taken at the "highest level" of the CPS.

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