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Judge slams 'shoddy' assault case

A former public schoolboy has been cleared of sexually assaulting an ex-classmate after a boozy night out - after a top judge criticised the "shoddy" case against him.

"Baby-faced" Archie Reed, 20, was accused of attacking the student in her halls of residence on October 9 last year following an evening in the pub.

But Mr Reed, who works for a currency consultancy in Hammersmith after leaving the £30,000-a-year boarding school, told the Old Bailey the sexual encounter was "definitely consensual".

Today, a jury of five men and seven women sitting at the Old Bailey found Reed, of Addison Road, Kensington, west London, not guilty of assault by penetration. He was earlier formally cleared of attempted rape on trial judge Anthony Morris QC's direction.

Mr Reed smiled as the verdict was read out and later declined to comment as he left court.

Judge Morris had criticised the police's handling of the case after it emerged a series of texts had gone missing from the woman's phone.

The first week of the trial was blighted with delays and defence lawyer Sallie Bennett-Jenkins QC branded the missing texts a "serious failure".

The judge agreed it was a "shortcoming in the investigation" - and said he would not have started the trial if he knew the sloppy state the case was in.

The verdict comes just a few weeks after a controversial interview by a retired top judge Mary Jane Mowat, who warned rape convictions will not improve until women stop drinking heavily.

The court heard the pair met after rekindling their friendship at a school reunion last year. Reed said the young woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been "flirtatious" towards him at the gathering, complimenting him on his more mature looks and hair style.

They met up again at the Northumberland Arms pub in central London where they shared two bottles of white wine, and she agreed Reed could stay over because he had missed the last Tube home.

The pair walked to the halls of residence holding hands, hugging and the woman stopped to kiss him on the cheek before going to the room, Reed told the court. Once inside he stripped to his T-shirt and boxer shorts, got into bed with the woman, kissed and performed a sex act on her.

Mr Reed said the woman "was definitely consenting" and described his shock when, after around 45 seconds, the woman leapt out of bed and asked what was going on. He said: "I was very confused. I had no idea what she meant. I think I said 'what do you mean?'

"So when I think she said again 'what are you doing' that's when I stopped and got off the bed and said 'I don't understand what you mean'.

"I was very confused at the time because three seconds before she seemed to be fine with what I was doing."

He added: "I immediately apologised - 'sorry', and she said, 'I thought we were just friends', and then I said 'I thought that's why you invited me back'."

Mr Reed, who has only ever had one short-term girlfriend, said they were drunk but insisted they were not "out of control".

The trial was nearly thrown out by the judge after defence lawyers said the missing texts and inaccurate legal advice from police meant Reed could not get a fair trial.

The clearly exasperated judge hit out at the CPS's handling of the case, saying it would be useful if they were represented in court "instead of just being at the end of the phone opining as to whether cases should go ahead or not".

The case came a week after former Oxford Crown Court judge Mowat, 66, told the Oxford Mail of the difficulties of bringing sex assault cases to court when the alleged victim had been drinking.

She said: "I will also say, and I will be pilloried for saying so, but the rape conviction statistics will not improve until women stop getting so drunk.

"I'm not saying it's right to rape a drunken woman, I'm not saying for a moment that it's allowable to take advantage of a drunken woman.

"But a jury in a position where they've got a woman who says 'I was absolutely off my head, I can't really remember what I was doing, I can't remember what I said, I can't remember if I consented or not but I know I wouldn't have done'.

"I mean when a jury is faced with something like that, how are they supposed to react?"

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