LATEST: British TV star Michael Barrymore has escaped a legal battle with the family of a man who drowned at his English mansion five years ago (01).

Factory employee STUART LUBBOCK, 31, was found dead in the swimming pool of Barrymore's Essex home in March 2001 after a party. Lubbock's severe injuries lead police and his family to believe he had been sexually assaulted.

Barrymore refused to speak publicly about the incident and fled Britain for a new life in New Zealand with his partner SHAUN DAVIS.

However, after Barrymore returned to Britain to star in reality TV show Celebrity Big Brother last month (JAN06), the Lubbock family's lawyer TONY BENNETT submitted legal papers to have the TV host charged with drug offences and assault.

District JUDGE KEVIN GRAY refused the application in Southend Magistrates Court in Essex earlier today (10FEB06) due to lack of evidence.

In a statement, Barrymore says, "I remain totally committed as I always have been to continue pursuing the truth about Stuart Lubbock's death on that tragic evening and would very much welcome working alongside Mr Terry Lubbock to uncover the truth.

"Allegations about drugs from that night have always been a complete irrelevance as to how Stuart Lubbock suffered those injuries.

"The court held that Mr Bennett's misguided application today to prosecute me for drug offences was an abuse of process, not in the public interest and the evidence on which he relied upon today was inadequate or unlawfully obtained."