Man's life destroyed by 'preposterous' sexual assault charge
A report from BBC News details how a split-second encounter ruined one man's life.
A walk through one of the busiest train stations in the UK changed Mark Pearson's life forever.
It took him just half a second to pass an award-winning actress in her 60s but that was enough for prosecutors to charge with him sexual assault.
When the case finally got to court, a jury needed only 90 minutes to reject the allegations, but by then the damage had been done to Pearson, a 51-year-old artist and picture framer.
It was claimed he assaulted the TV, theatre and radio actress penetratively for "two or three seconds" as he walked past her at London's Waterloo station, before landing a heavy blow to her left shoulder as he pushed past her, The Telegraph reported.
CCTV footage could not establish if Pearson and the woman, who can not be named for legal reasons, made physical contact as they walked quickly past each other. A forensic expert for the defence told Blackfriars Crown Court Pearson had passed the actress in half a second, saying any assault was a logistical impossibility.
Specialist CCTV forensic expert Jacob Blythe showed Pearson was carrying a newspaper in his left hand - the one he was alleged to have used in the assault - and holding his bag in his right.
The Telegraph said the case raised more questions about the decision-making in sexual assault cases by Britain's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), in particular pressing ahead with improperly investigated prosecutions with gaping holes in the evidence.
In Pearson's case, the woman failed to pick him out of an identity parade, there was no forensic evidence, and there were no witnesses despite the train station being crowded with commuters.
The actress was wearing a coat and jacket and a thin dress over "training pants" following a yoga class.
The CPS also produced the CCTV footage during the three-day court hearing last week at half its normal speed - a critical change, given the case rested on whether Pearson had enough time to commit the assault.
"They said they did it for technical reasons; what they were we weren't told," Pearson said.
The CPS had the CCTV evidence right from the start, and from it could have realised the complainant's statement was "total crap" and dismissed the case, he said.
He believed the CPS was overly keen to get convictions at all costs, after high-profile mistakes in cases such as those involving broadcasting personalities Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris.
The incident allegedly happened on December 3, 2014, although the first Pearson knew about it was when six police officers turned up on his doorstep on February 5, 2015. From the start he called the claim "preposterous".
He had no memory of the day he walked past the actress - it was the same "boring journey" from home to work he made regularly.
After he was charged, Pearson would regularly wake around 4am, his whole body shaking, unable to stop thinking about the case. He had anxiety attacks, became "a nervous wreck", and at his lowest refused to leave his house, see friends or pick up a paintbrush.
The CPS remains unrepentant: "There was sufficient evidence for this case to proceed to court and progress to trial. We respect the decision of the jury," a spokesman said.
"That's the reverse of an apology really isn't it," Pearson told The Telegraph.
Speaking to ITV, he said the CCTV footage totally contradicted the allegation. "What I don't understand is why the CPS, even the police didn't see that."
"It's a systemic problem with the CPS. There's something gone radically wrong with their processes," Pearson said.
"Even if I had more time, logistically it's not possible to do what she accused me of. I would have to have walked forwards while leaning backwards."