Former Durham student cleared of sexual assault after ‘heartfelt apology’

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Former Durham student Christopher Twigg has been cleared of three counts of sexual assault of a fellow student, after giving a ‘heartfelt apology’ before his trial started at Durham Crown Court.

Twigg, 20, denied the charges. A jury was sworn in but heard no evidence from the case. Instead, before the trial started the defendant was given the opportunity to apologise to the woman without admitting guilt.

A private meeting took place between the alleged victim and lawyers, in which he gave her a ‘heartfelt apology’.

The first of three counts of sexual assault the defendant was accused of were said to have happened as he began studying a Sport, Exercise and Physical Activities course at Durham University between October 1st and November 18th 2017.

The second and third alleged assaults both took place on November 18th. Twigg was accused of touching the fellow student in a sexual way, without her consent.

It is understood that the defendant had been drinking on the night. He has been suspended from the University since the allegations were made, working back home in Cheshire.

Twigg is a keen rugby player who had built a successful career, having played in the Thai National Rugby League team’s debut game in 2017.

After the meeting the prosecuting counsel Chris Baker told the court: “Upon deliberation and consultation with the complainant a view was taken that a heartfelt apology to her would meet the public interest in this case.

“This has now taken place and she was content with the apology she received.

“Myself, defence counsel and the officer overseeing the case were present and were all agreed that it was a heartfelt apology for some dreadful behaviour that took place that night.

“The Crown’s view is that we will now offer ‘no evidence’ in the case.”

Judge Jonathan Carroll told the defendant: “I can only echo that was the very least you could have done. You were in drink and have allowed horse play to elevate itself.

“At the very least it was downright rude and a quite intimidating behaviour which has had very significant impact on your victim.

“I acknowledge it has had a devastating effect on you, ending your university education and damaging your rugby career, so you have learned in a very hard way a very difficult lesson.

“Go away and reflect how you behaved in drink so you never see yourself before the court again.”

The judge then ordered the jury to return a formal not guilty verdict for all three counts.

A Durham University spokesperson said:

“Following the allegation of serious sexual misconduct, the then accused party was immediately suspended, while a police investigation was underway.

“As this individual is no longer a Durham University student we will be making no further about this specific case.

“The safety and dignity of our staff and students are of paramount importance. We want all our staff and students to feel safe, welcome, respected, and valued members of our community.

“We will always strive to eliminate sexual violence and misconduct from within our community and to ensure that victims get the support they need to report allegations, rebuild their lives and stay safe.”

Photograph: Durham Crown Court (She_who_must via Flickr)

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