Explaining the decision, the Crown Prosecution Service said that “a combination of the withdrawal of key witnesses and new material that came to light meant there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction”.
Given Greenwood, 21, has been suspended by United for more than a year, some may argue that an innocent man has been forced to pay an overly heavy price simply on the basis of an accusation, not a conviction, and that others in his situation suffer a similar ordeal. Aside from the potential financial costs, it is hard to imagine the mental turmoil resulting from a prolonged period of being publicly accused of a crime you did not commit.
However, there are other factors to be considered before any rush to legislate on the basis of one high-profile case or another. For example, if the identity of someone who has actually committed an offence is kept secret until they are convicted, this would almost certainly hamper police efforts to gather evidence and reduce the chances of other witnesses coming forward.
And conviction rates for rape are already shockingly low, both north and south of the Border. In Scotland in 2020/21, there were 2,298 reports of rape and attempted rape, but just 78 convictions. So the suffering of those wrongly accused has to be viewed in the context of the suffering of victims who are denied justice.