Couple Cleared Of Fiddling Research

Britain's first gay surrogate parents, from Essex, have walked free from court after the collapse of their trial on charges that they fiddled data for their medical research company.

Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, 42, and his partner Tony, 47, said they were "delighted" to be cleared of fabricating test results for clinical trials.

The millionaire couple said the judge threw out the charges over concerns about the disclosure of evidence by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which prosecuted the case.

Standing on the steps of London's Southwark Crown Court, Tony Drewitt-Barlow said: "Today, we have been cleared of all charges brought against us by the MHRA, and the judge has ordered a full investigation into its handling of the case.

"We are delighted that the jury found us not guilty of all charges and that this nightmare is finally over. In the past four-and-a-half years, our good name has been dragged through the mud and this has not only affected our professional lives but also affected us personally.

"We would like to thank our family, friends and clients who have stood by us and supported us every step of the way and we now want to move on with our lives."

The Drewitt-Barlows, from Chandlers Quay in Maldon hit the headlines in 1999 when they became the first British same-sex couple to be named on their children's birth certificates.

The couple, who made their millions in cosmetic research, now have five surrogate children and cemented their relationship with a civil partnership in 2006.

They said their co-defendants in the case brought by the MHRA - Dr Alex Morgan, 65, of Holloway, north London; Mandie Mayes, 50, of Maldon, Essex, and Dr David Shuttleworth, 58, of Fordham in Colchester who worked for their former company Euroderm Research - were also cleared of all charges.

An MHRA spokesman said:" The prosecution requested that this case be withdrawn because it was not in a position to comply with its obligations regarding the disclosure of unused material to the defence. The judge directed the jury to find all defendants not guilty of all charges. The MHRA will now conduct a review into the handling of the case and will take appropriate action once concluded."