The defence lawyer for a Durham University student who walked free after being charged with rape has warned that young men should never have sex with drunk women.
Alastair Cooke, 23, said last night that he was ‘delighted this nightmare is over’ after the case against him was dropped.
Speaking outside Durham Crown Court, Mr Cooke's barrister Cathy McCulloch warned that attitudes to sex and alcohol must change in universities.
'What happened to Alastair Cooke is every young man's nightmare and we need a campaign to educate them.
'Young men need to learn that if a woman presents as drunk but gives all the signs, as they see it, of consenting, she can still say later that she was not fit to consent,' Mrs McCulloch said.
'Young men know you cannot put roofies [date rape drugs] in a girl's drink, you can't spike a girl's drink, but we now need to take things a step further.
'Even if they have not given the woman the alcohol, if they have watched them take their own alcohol, if that woman appears to be drunk they must not go there.
'You cannot have a f*** buddy. It is about whether or not someone can give consent to have their body used in the most intimate act between two human beings.'
Mrs McCulloch added: ‘It is every mother’s nightmare, I have a 25-year-old son and it’s my nightmare.’
Mr Cooke, a third-year geology and geophysics student, was weeks away from an expected first class degree when he was arrested in 2015 on suspicion of raping a 23-year-old student in her home when she drunk.
But jurors could not agree on a verdict, and yesterday Durham Crown Court was told that the prosecution would not seek a retrial on the three rape charges faced by Mr Cooke and that his accuser agreed with that decision.
‘We therefore offer no evidence on these counts,’ said prosecutor Paul Cleasby.
The student was the third undergraduate to be cleared of rape in the past 12 months. Last January Louis Richardson, then 21, the former secretary of the Durham Union debating society, was cleared by a jury in less than three hours.
The history student, from St Helier, Jersey, and his family said they had been put through ‘15 months of absolute hell’.
Engineering student George Worrall, 22, from Cromer in Norfolk, faced three counts of rape, but last July after he had been under suspicion for 18 months the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case before it went to trial, citing ‘inconsistencies of the victim’s account’.
Mr Cooke, who denied the charges, did not attend court yesterday and was at his family home in Truro, Cornwall, when he heard the news.
He said: ‘This has been a really difficult time for all those involved on all sides. I am delighted this nightmare is now over. I am looking forward to trying to piece my life back together.’
Mr Cooke, who now plans to complete his degree, was accused of raping the woman at her student house in June 2015 when she was very drunk and unresponsive.
He had known the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, for two years. It was alleged that he stalked her back to her home from a house party, let himself in and raped her three times in her bedroom.
But his barrister, Mrs McCulloch, told the court last month that the allegation arose from ‘regret which got out of hand’.
Jurors were also told that the woman had a tendency to exaggerate and that the ‘willowy’ Mr Cooke was too weak to throw her around ‘like a rag doll’ as she claimed.
It was alleged during his trial that the woman’s friends were a ‘mob’ who knew ‘exactly what it took to get a rape conviction’. Mrs McCulloch said: ‘They were all working together to help their friend.’
At the trial, the court heard that Mr Cooke was a volunteer with the Nightline student advice service and during his training he had role-played being accused of raping a drunken woman after following her home.
The scenario he had invented previously matched the alleged real-life events in June 2015, the jury was told.