Royal Navy sailor is cleared of joining alleged gang-rape in Canada
CANADIAN prosecutors have cleared a Royal Navy sailor of gang-raping a woman while stationed in the country.
Lawyers claimed that Craig Stoner, 25, had joined three other sailors – including two from Gosport – in sexually assaulting a woman in April 2015.
But following a week-long preliminary hearing, lawyers in Canada dropped the charges against him claiming there was not enough evidence to convict Mr Stoner, of Stockbridge.
However, the other three men, Simon Radford, 32, and Darren Smalley, 26 – both of Gosport – and Joshua Finbow, 24, of Stockbridge, will have to wait a further three months to find out if they too are cleared.
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 joined an alcohol-fuelled party before sexually assaulting a woman – a civilian in her 20s.
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.
Speaking at the opening of the hearing, at Nova Scotia Supreme 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 sailors were all flown from the UK to attend four separate hearings.
Despite these, Canadian lawyers say they need more time to consider the evidence.
A new, three-day hearing has now been arranged, beginning on July 11.
There is currently a ban on reporting any evidence that is mentioned in court.