Man falsely accused of sexually assaulting actress feels like he has undergone 'mental torture sanctioned by the state'

Caroline Mortimer
Thursday 11 February 2016 15:36
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A commuter wrongly accused of sexually assaulting a "well-known" actress after brushing past her at a train station has spoken of how “half a second turned into a year of hell”.

Mark Pearson said he felt like he had “undergone a form of mental torture sanctioned by the state” after he was charged over the alleged incident at Waterloo station in December 2014.

CCTV footage showed the 51-year-old walking through the station holding a newspaper in his left hand and with his right hand on his bag strap when he brushes past the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

The alleged victim later told police he had “penetrated” her and hit her on the shoulder - although footage showing he had never broken his stride.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) were found to have deliberately slowed down the footage, which made it appear Mr Pearson had more time to assault the alleged victim.

Mr Pearson’s defence barrister Mark Bagshaw explained the footage had been slowed down from one frame per second to one frame per two seconds.

There were no witnesses or forensic evidence.

A jury took just 90 minutes for jurors to clear Mr Pearson of any wrongdoing at his trial at Blackfriars Crown Court.

Speaking BBC Radio Five Live, the married picture-framer called the charges “preposterous” and said “anyone who has seen the CCTV images knows that I couldn’t possibly have done it”.

He said in court: “It is against everything I believe in as a human being. I did nothing. I would have had to crouch down, put my hand up the woman’s skirt ... penetrate her, take my hand out again ... all while holding the newspaper and walking along the concourse.”

“For me, half a second turned into a year of hell. I feel I have undergone a form of mental torture sanctioned by the state.”

Mr Pearson, who says he now suffers from anxiety, said he spent a year defending himself in and out of court.

He said whenever he told people he was innocent he would feel they were thinking “of course you would say that”.

The CPS defended its decision to take the case to trial, saying in a statement: "There was sufficient evidence for this case to proceed to court and progress to trial. We respect the decision of the jury."

It comes as London Met Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe suggested the force may stop “automatically” believing alleged rape victims after a series of high-profile mistakes in its handling of cases.

Sir Bernard is facing calls for an inquiry after he launched a nine-month investigation into allegations against former army chief Lord Bramall, which was eventually dropped.

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