As some will recall from my earlier post Ben Sullivan, the outgoing president of the Oxford Union debating society was the focus of a boycott that saw eminent guests refuse to speak at the Union while he was actively chairing it. This was a result of his being accused of separate counts of rape and attempted rape by two undergraduates on separate occasions.
What is not in doubt is that on 18th June Mr Sullivan was informed by the police that after consultation with the CPS no further action was to be taken on either count due to lack of evidence. He was not charged, and would not be unless new evidence came to light.
Of less certain veracity the Daily Telegraph is reporting that they have seen evidence disclosed to the Police that the woman who made the rape allegation (or on who's behalf the rape claim was made) had sex consensually and intended to assist Mr Sullivan in clearing his name.
The Telegraph unfortunately clutter their report with superfluous details about this sexually active woman's recreational habits (because slut-shaming is cooler than the other side of the pillow). Important elements however seem to be:
Discussing on Facebook rumours that she was raped by Mr Sullivan after an event in January 2013, the alleged victim reassured the Union President: "If we ignore it, it'll go away."
Mr Sullivan replied: "People are going around accusing me of rape... How on earth could this have happened? I can't really just ignore people accusing me of a felony I obviously did not commit."
The student, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: "When I got back to [my college] there were a bunch of people who'd been on [an event] outside the bar.
"I was drunk, crying and half dressed, no one knew that I'd just got back together with my boyfriend - that's how people got the wrong idea.
"The next day I told everyone that was not what had happened, people just assumed - and a few girls decided that I was traumatised and suffering from victim guilt, which is ridiculous.
"My boyfriend didn't find out until someone told him at the end of trinity. He then broke up with me. You can't seriously think I would want that. I'm trying to ignore it because I still feel so, so guilty about cheating on him."
When asked whether she believed the rumours were true, she added: "I know it must be absolutely awful for you but it's not something I wanted people to find out - being known as a cheat is not fun. And no, of course they're not. I was far too drunk, that's it."
Things that stand out to me (assuming of course that this is even close to genuine) are that reference to these other "girls" suggests the possibility that the actual complaint to police may not have come from the alleged victim but from a concerned third party. The other thing is that she describes herself as "far too drunk", she may quite reasonably have later come to the realisation that she was intoxicated beyond the ability to give consent.
On it's own I don't see this exchange as published by the Telegraph wrecking an otherwise sound case (and of course it has nothing to do with the Attempted Rape accusation that was also abandoned), but if the case was shaky to begin with this exchange could quite reasonably have made the matter impossible to prosecute with any realistic hope of conviction.
It is still my view that he ought to have stepped aside as Union President while he was under investigation. Speakers were dropping out explicitly because of his continued role and that harmed the purpose of the organisation he had been elected to lead.
Mr Sullivan has now joined Nigel Evans (former Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, recently cleared of rape, my mothers MP) in campaigning for anonymity for suspects in sex crime cases. They seem specifically to be advocating anonymity before charges are laid, which is certainly superior to demanding anonymity until conviction. I am not however convinced it is in the interests of justice. Knowing who has been arrested makes it possible for other victims to come forward, it also makes it possible for witnesses who could provide an alibi to come forward at an early stage.