A 27-year-old British man who spent almost two years in prison in Australia after being accused of raping an American backpacker while she was asleep has been acquitted at a retrial.

Scott Harry Richardson, from Bristol, was acquitted by a jury in Sydney after new, more advanced DNA testing found traces of a second man on a sample taken from the woman. 

He had previously been convicted of two counts of sexual intercourse without consent of a 23-year-old woman at an impromptu house party in an inner-city apartment in Sydney in 2015. 

Mr Richardson, who had been working as a wine advisor in Australia, spent about 22 months in prison before being released on bail last August after an appeals court quashed his conviction and ordered a retrial. The court ordered him to live in Bristol until his retrial earlier this month.

The woman, who was at the party with her boyfriend, accused Mr Richardson of raping her while she was sleeping on a couch. 

But Mr Richardson, who lived in the apartment with his then girlfriend, denied the charges, saying he had woken before dawn and saw someone sleeping under a duvet on the couch. He said he jumped on the person, but immediately moved away when he realised it was a stranger rather than his friend.  

"I thought it was my friend James," he told the court. 

"I realised by the size of the person it wasn’t my friend James. I got off and said ‘sorry’ and left."

However, fresh DNA testing on a sample taken from the woman’s vagina detected two male profiles. 

The court heard that the testing, conducted in the state of South Australia, was more “discriminatory” than the initial testing conducted in the state of New South Wales. The later testing mapped 27 genetic markers on the Y chromosome, compared with the earlier testing, which mapped 17 markers – and this enabled the detection of the second male.

Mr Richardson’s lawyers had claimed that the detection of his DNA was due to a “secondary transfer” and that his DNA had been transferred via ordinary contact or touch.

The appeals court found that the later DNA evidence was “compelling” and quashed his conviction.

At the initial trial, Mr Richardson was described as a talented hockey player and university graduate who taught English internationally before moving to Australia to work.

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