A judge condemned a Muslim community today for putting 'enormous emotional pressure' on a wife to drop rape charges against her husband.
Judge Simon Newell said locals from the woman's mainly Muslim neighbourhood had impeded police and prosecutors because they wanted to protect the family's honour.
The Muslim wife, 32, had been due to testify against her 34-year old husband before a jury at Burnley Crown Court after she accused of him of raping her twice.
The husband - who cannot be named - had a conviction for assault causing actual bodily harm against his wife and one for a sexual offence against another woman.
He is already on the Sex Offender Register until September 2014.
On the day of the rape trial, the case collapsed when the woman made a retraction statement to police saying she no longer wanted to give evidence.
The judge, 59, agreed to allow the matter to 'lie on file', allowing the husband to walk free but warned the charges could be reinstated if new evidence came to light.
He told the court the reasons for the alleged victim's retraction gave him cause for concern.
The judge added: 'It seems to me there are persons who have an interest in this case, who are minded to express opinions and exert influences which are possibly inhibiting the police, the prosecuting authorities and the courts in carrying out their proper functions.
This will not be tolerated.
'It is for the courts to carry out judicial functions and it's not for individuals or sections of the community to attempt to resolve these matters outside the court.'
Judge Newell said he hoped to set up a meeting with representatives of the appropriate sections of the community to try and resolve the problem and would be discussing it with Judge Beverley Lunt, the most senior judge in Burnley.
He warned the husband before he left: 'These charges may be brought back to court.'
The court had heard the husband, who is from Nelson, Lancashire, denied the two rape charges.
Prosecutor Sara Dodd had told the hearing the alleged victim was at court, but did not wish to give evidence against her husband.
The lawyer said the woman had put under 'enormous emotional pressure from her community' over the case.
None of the allegations were outlined in court.
After the case, community leaders backed the judge's demands for a meeting with Muslim community leaders, with a number of them calling for improved support services for victims of rape and domestic violence across East Lancashire.
Salim Mulla, chairman of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, said: 'There is a real problem and we have to accept that.
'The Muslim community sometimes has a different way of working, trying to resolve the problems itself rather than leaving it to the police.
But that doesn't make it the right thing to do.
'The abuse of any child or woman is not permitted by Islam.
We will continue to speak about this issue and try to raise it in the community to stop it happening.'
Coun Mohammed Iqbal, Labour leader on Pendle Council said: 'There is a small section who may think their cultural identity is higher than the law of the land, but as far as I am concerned it isn't.'
Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson said generally rape victims may face strong emotional pressure when testifying in such a case, such as from family, but added those with an Muslim background could also come under duress from their community.
Blackburn MP and former Justice Secretary Jack Straw - who recommended Judge Newell become a circuit judge in 2008 - said: 'The law has been strengthened around these issues but there is much more that needs to be done between the courts, police and social services.
'In these cases, because they involve families, it is the families and community that wants to solve them. That itself is a significant problem. I would welcome judges being more hands on and it could make a difference.'
Lancashire Police said it was not appropriate for the force to comment on the case.