Ex-minister's aide hits out at police and CPS after being cleared of sex assault

A former special adviser to Sir Michael Fallon who was acquitted of sexual assault has said there are "serious issues" about the way the case was handled.

Richard Holden said it was a "travesty" that the case against him had been pursued and it added to concerns about the actions of the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

He had been accused of groping a woman under her skirt at a party in London in 2016.

The jury of eight men and four women returned unanimous verdicts after deliberating for less than an hour.

The 33-year-old was employed as one of then-defence secretary Sir Michael's media advisers until early last year.

Hitting out at the handling of the case, Mr Holden said the police had a duty to pursue the evidence "wherever it leads".

He said the allegation was supposed to have taken place in a room of 15 to 20 people "none of whom corroborated the claim" and "what was alleged did not happen".

In a statement, he said he hoped that the "serious issues raised concerning disclosure and police investigations into alleged sexual crimes by this and many other recent cases will ensure that the police and CPS reflect and instead use the significant resources at their disposal to get justice rather than pursuing spurious allegations".

Mr Holden continued: "That this case has been pursued at all is a travesty. It has been a cruel public shaming and an utter waste of time and resources.

"The police and CPS have created a victim of me, and victims of my close friends and family - who have suffered this ordeal at my side for a year and a half.

"And, most importantly, it has let down the real victims of awful crimes, as the state spent tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pounds in pursuing a case so readily dismissed by a jury."

After the jury at Southwark Crown Court returned its verdict, Mr Holden was released from the dock and went over to his girlfriend in court, hugging and kissing her repeatedly.

One of the female jurors nodded and winked at him as she left the courtroom.

Judge Deborah Taylor said: "Obviously the defendant leaves the court without a stain on his character."

Mr Holden said he hoped that he "would again be able to serve the country I love" and the Conservative Party.

The complainant, who is in her 20s, told the jury that Mr Holden kept giving her hugs and telling her how beautiful she was during the party on December 17 2016.

He was alleged to have put his hands around her waist before moving his hands up her skirt and touching her intimately.

Mr Holden, of St Mary's Gardens in Lambeth, south London, said the incident did not occur and added: "I have no idea why she has made up any of this."

He said he was not romantically interested in the woman, he had no physical contact with her on that night and was in a new relationship with his girlfriend, who was also at the party.

He previously held a number of roles for the Tories, and spent several years in the Conservative Party press office.