FOUR Royal Navy sailors accused of gang-raping a woman after taking part in an ice hockey tournament in Canada have appeared in court.
Simon Radford, 32, and Darren Smalley, 26, – both of Gosport – are alleged to have sexually assaulted a woman at an alcohol-fuelled party in a Canadian barracks in April last year.
Joshua Finbow, 24, of Stockbridge, and Craig Stoner, 25, of Stonehouse, are also charged with the crime.
They all appeared in front of judge at Nova Scotia Supreme Court and are due back in court for a further preliminary hearing this Friday.
Speaking outside the court, Canadian prosecutor Scott Morrison said: ‘We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think it met the realistic prospect of a conviction.
‘Obviously we’re going to push it forward as far as the evidence allows.’
The four sailors were arrested on April 10 last year.
They had all been taking part in a hockey tournament against armed forces personnel based in Canada.
Canadian prosecutors alleged that once the men returned to the Shearwater naval base, near Halifax, Nova Scotia, they sexually assaulted a woman – a civilian in her 20s who isn’t being identified.
The men were held in the country after the incident before being moved to a military base in Alberta where there is a British Army training unit.
A Canadian judge agreed a deal in August that three of the men – Stoner, Finbow and Radford – would be allowed to return to the UK while awaiting the beginning of the preliminary hearing.
Smalley was later permitted to return to his home after a separate hearing in September.
The purpose of this series of preliminary hearings is to test the Canadian prosecutors’ case to decide whether the men will be committed to a full trial.
All four sailors arrived at court wearing suits and with separate lawyers representing them.
Prosecutor Eric Taylor led the questioning as the first witness appeared.
Defence lawyers asked for extra time to consider evidence before they begin cross-examination later this week.
There is currently a ban on reporting any evidence mentioned in court during these hearings.