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Hughes' false complaint claims rejected

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 05:00 10/06/2011
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DARREN HUGHES: Police said that they had no concerns about the validity of the complaint against Hughes.

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Police appear to have rejected claims by former MP Darren Hughes that he was the victim of a false complaint after they decided not to charge him over an incident involving an 18-year-old student.

An advocate for male sex abuse victims said yesterday that he was worried the outcome would deter other young men and women from coming forward if they believed they had been sexually assaulted.

After a long-running inquiry, police said this week that they had decided not to charge Mr Hughes because the allegations against him did not reach "the evidential threshold required to bring charges".

In a statement issued after the police decision, Mr Hughes said he had been falsely accused of a serious crime he did not commit.

But asked yesterday about Mr Hughes' statement, police responded that they had no concerns about the validity of the complaint against him. They would not comment further.

Police began their investigation after the 18-year-old lodged a complaint following an incident in early March in which he ended up at Mr Hughes' home after a night out drinking.

Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust national manager Ken Clearwater said that, like most people, he found it difficult to judge what may have happened since no-one had talked publicly about that night. But in cases involving sexual allegations, there was a very high threshold for getting complaints to court. "Just because the police don't go ahead doesn't prove innocence or guilt."

For the complainants, it could be a traumatic and difficult process. "It's really, really hard because you've got to sit through that whole complaint process and you're getting cross-examined all the way through ... you're traumatised at the same time.

"Then all of a sudden you think, `is this worth it?' There's a lot of cases, especially with women, where they'll just walk away, they won't even bother going through it."

The publicity in the Hughes case made it even more difficult. "It will be absolutely horrendous for this young fella; you've just got to hope ... he's got good support around him."

There was also a concern that the case could deter people from making complaints. "That is one of the huge problems we do have when things like this happen. Others look at it and say, `nothing happens, I'm not going to go forward.' It happens for women as well."

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