Police will not stop England rugby players from leaving

Police will not stop four touring England rugby players at the centre of an alleged sexual attack leaving the country tomorrow.

The players accused of the alleged rape or sexual assault of a woman at Auckland's Hilton Hotel last weekend deny the accusations and have refused to be interviewed by detectives after taking legal advice.

A leading criminal lawyer supported their stand, saying it would have been foolish for them to have agreed to talk to police at this early stage.

Nigel Hampton QC said no charges have been laid, and police were still to take a formal statement from the alleged victim yesterday.

Police spokeswoman Noreen Hegarty said the victim had made the allegations to police herself.

There was no reason to detain or restrict the movements of any of the English players and what may or may not unfold in future was speculation.

"Certainly, if some time down the track there is some formal statement made, there would be another approach from police to speak to the people at the centre of the complaint."

The English rugby team said it had "positive dialogue" with Auckland police but the players were not prepared to speak to them in the absence of a formal complaint.

"The England squad fully understands the frustration felt by many members of the public and the media regarding the lack of information the squad have been able to provide," a spokesman said.

"We hope it is understood that in the context of an ongoing police investigation this is a difficult time for all concerned and when it is appropriate to do so, further comment will be made."

Mr Hampton said it was reasonable for the English players to exercise their legal right to refuse to speak to police, especially when police did not have a formal statement from their accuser.

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