A JUDGE has ruled that the Crown Prosecution Service must pay almost £157,000 of the legal costs of three former Royal Agriculture University students who were cleared of rape.

At Gloucester Crown Court on Tuesday, Judge Ian Lawrie said the CPS must pay £156,939 to the lawyers of the students who were accused of raping a woman after the Cirencester university’s May Ball in 2014.

Together with a fourth defendant, who was given legal aid, they were acquitted on a judge’s direction in 2016 after it was revealed a policeman had not made full disclosures about the alleged victim’s promiscuous sexual history and her behaviour on the night of the incident.

Following the trial, the judge ruled the prosecution must pay 75 per cent of the defence costs incurred and left that figure to be assessed. On Tuesday the lawyers gathered for Judge Lawrie – who has replaced the now retired trial judge, Jamie Tabor – to announce the amount that must be paid.

After the trial’s collapse in 2016, Judge Tabor had criticised the police and prosecution handling of the case.

He ruled that if full details about the alleged rape victim’s past promiscuous sexual behaviour had been investigated and revealed by the officer in the case, Detective Constable Ben Lewis, the students would probably not even have been charged.

DC Lewis had been accused by defence lawyers of ‘vandalising’ the case by not making full disclosures about the woman’s sexual past. It was clear, said the judge, that the officer had become a ‘confidante’ of the alleged victim.

However, DC Lewis was later cleared of any misconduct after an investigation by the IPCC.

The students had claimed the woman was a willing sex partner at the time of the alleged rapes.