Bill Cosby accusers – including Chelan Lasha (right)- speak out in hurt at his conviction being overturned (Image: Getty)

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The overturning of Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction in Philadelphia has prompted a wave of criticism and outrage.

The US actor and comedian, 83, had been convicted in 2018 of drugging and molesting Temple University employee Andrea Constand.

However, a Philadelphia Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday overturned Cosby’s conviction after he already served two years of a three to a 10-year prison sentence.

Following his release from a state prison on Wednesday, Cosby tweeted: "I have never changed my stance nor my story. I have always maintained my innocence.

“Thank you to all my fans, supporters and friends who stood by me through this ordeal.

“Special thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for upholding the rule of law. #BillCosby".

Bill Cosby seen outside of his home after being released from prison in Pennsylvania
(Image: Gilbert Carrasquillo / SplashNews.com)

The decision to overturn his conviction was blamed on the prosecution of the 2018 trial having enacted a “process violation”.

Constand and her lawyers said after the ruling on Wednesday that this “is not only disappointing but of concern in that it may discourage those who seek justice for sexual assault in the criminal justice system from reporting or participating in the prosecution of the assailant”.

The comedian – once the beloved star of the 1980s series The Cosby Show and dubbed "America's Dad" – had been charged in 2015 after a prosecutor obtained new evidence from the accuser’s previous lawsuit against Cosby.

After a jury was deadlocked, the judge at the trial allowed five other accusers to testify at the retrial, with accounts detailing events in the 1980s.

Bill Cosby accusers have spoken out in anger at his conviction being overturned
(Image: Getty Images)

Cosby was then convicted in 2018 and received a sentence of three to 10 years.

One of Cosby’s appellate lawyers said the evidence had been too vague against Cosby, including his own testimonies.

Lawyer Jennifer Bonjean had argued in December: “The presumption of innocence just didn’t exist for him.”

However, the Supreme Court for the State of Pennsylvania has now decided that these testimonies tainted the trial despite lower appeals courts deciding otherwise.

In the 79-page court document, it was ruled: "When an unconditional charging decision is made publicly and with the intent to induce action and reliance by the defendant, and when the defendant does so to his detriment (and in some instances upon the advice of counsel), denying the defendant the benefit of that decision is an affront to fundamental fairness, particularly when it results in a criminal prosecution that was foregone for more than a decade.

"No mere changing of the guard strips that circumstance of its inequity".

The document concludes: "Cosby's convictions and judgment of sentence are vacated, and he is discharged."

Bill Cosby shared a message with his supporters on Twitter
(Image: Twitter)

In addition to the 2018 conviction against Cosby, dozens of women had come forward to accuse Cosby publicly of sexual assault.

One of the accusers, Patricia Leary Steuer, reacted to CNN about the decision to overturn Cosby’s conviction: "There were more than 63 of us who came forward in the end.

“I’m wondering what the purpose was of the 43 years of this ordeal and the trauma that I had and the trauma that my family endured as a result."

Meanwhile, Cosby accuser Chelan Lasha and her attorney Marc Strecker spoke to CNN about the decision.

A tearful Lasha said: "It's been hard to see him get away like that and everything he done to myself. He ruined a perfect innocent girl."

Women's rights attorney Gloria Allred (R) and Cosby accuser Chelan Lasha, pictured here in 2014, have reacted to the overturning of Cosby's conviction
(Image: AFP/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Gloria Allred, an attorney for multiple Cosby accusers, said in a statement to CNN: "This decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court today to overturn the conviction of Bill Cosby must be devastating for Bill Cosby's accusers.

"My heart especially goes out to those who bravely testified in both of his criminal cases. I represented a majority of the prior bad act accusers who testified.

"Despite the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision, this was an important fight for justice and even though the court overturned the conviction on technical grounds, it did not vindicate Bill Cosby's conduct and should not be interpreted as a statement or a finding that he did not engage in the acts of which he has been accused."

Celebrities were also quick to voice their disapproval of the new court ruling.

Actress Debra Messing has criticised the court ruling
(Image: Bruce Glikas/WireImage)

Will & Grace actress Debra Messing wrote in support of the accusers on Twitter : “To every woman who was sexual assaulted by #BillCosby my heart hurts for you today and I am full fury. It’s horrifying.”

Comedian Kathy Griffin tweeted: “WHEN will things get better for women and girls regarding sexual assault, sexism, misogyny and ageism?

“What will it take? So discouraged.”

Actress Rosanna Arquette alleged in a tweet: “Bill Cosby is STILL an evil rapist .the end.”

Author Keith Boykin wrote about the violation that enabled the court to overturn the ruling.

Boykin tweeted: “The 5th Amendment is an essential tool to protect the rights of the powerless in America against the powerful.

“Please don’t blame the Constitution for the Bill Cosby decision.

“Blame the prosecutors who violated the Constitution.”

Comedian Bill Cosby (L) has been supported by actress Phylicia Rashad, pictured together in 2011
(Image: WireImage)

The Fifth Amendment in the United States Constitution allows an individual the right to refuse to make statements or answer questions that could be used in a criminal proceeding against that same person and establish whether they committed that crime.

However, actress Phylicia Rashad voiced her approval for the court ruling in Cosby’s favour.

Rashad tweeted: “FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!”