A County Londonderry man has spoken of the “terrible ordeal” he endured after being falsely accused of indecent behaviour with a horse.
Bobby McLaughlin, from Sunnyside Drive in Maghera, was yesterday acquitted of charges of outraging public decency after a two day trial at the Crown Court in Derry.
The 64-year-old had denied touching a horse inappropriately in a field at Craigmore Road on the outskirts of Maghera on May 17 of last year.
The allegation was made against him by another local man who was accompanied by his seven-year-old daughter at the time.
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, claimed he witnessed Mr McLaughlin behaving indecently with the horse for more than 10 minutes.
He rejected defence suggestions that his allegation was motivated by revenge after Mr McLaughlin had labelled him a thief in shops in the south Derry town in 2010. The defendant denied committing the offence in a field beside a local riding club for disabled riders.
He admitted being in the field at the time, but said he was only feeding bread and apples to the horses.
After more than two hours of deliberations the jury of seven men and five women acquitted the Maghera man of the offence by a majority not guilty verdict of 10-2.
Following his acquittal, Mr McLaughlin was told by trial Judge Stephen Fowler: “You are now free to leave.”
As he left the dock he was hugged by family members and friends.
He thanked them for standing by him during the trial.
“I have stood before a jury of my peers who have acquitted me of committing this most odious of offences,” he said.
“I came into this courtroom with a completely clear record and my reputation in that regard remains intact.”
Mr McLaughlin said that the “last year has been a terrible ordeal for me and for those close to me and for my family”.
“I thank them for their belief in my innocence and for standing by me throughout what has been a terrible time in my life.
“I am now looking forward to returning to my community and to returning to my friends an innocent man with my reputation vindictated and with my good name intact.
“I have nothing to say about the man who made these awful allegations against me,” he added.