Belfast man cleared of raping girl (14) in Belfast park
A Belfast man was has been cleared by a jury of raping a drunk 14-year old in Woodvale Park.
The jury of seven men and five women took over four hours of deliberations before returning a majority 'not guilty' verdict against William George McVeigh.
The 28-year-old, from Forthriver Green in the Ballygomartin area of the city, was also acquitted of two alternative charges - namely sexual activity with a child and sexual assault.
In a trial which has spanned three weeks, the jury heard from both the teenager, her mother and also Mr McVeigh.
The court was also shown CCTV footage taken from various locations on the Shankill Road which captured the girl and Mr McVeigh together in the early hours of Saturday, October 31, 2015.
During the trial, Belfast Crown Court heard that after attending a birthday party at a local pub, the teenager and her friend walked towards a Chinese takeaway at Lanark Way, where they became separated.
After encountering Mr McVeigh - who had been drinking at a friend's house - at the Chinese, they started walking up the Shankill.
The girl, who is now 16, admitted she was so drunk on the night in question that she could barely remember meeting him outside the Chinese takeaway, that she could not recall what happened and that she has a vague recollection of being in Woodvale Park with him.
It was the Crown's case that Mr McVeigh then took the girl into Woodvale Park where he raped her.
However, this claim was rejected by the jury, who cleared Mr McVeigh on all the charges levelled against him.
Mr McVeigh admitted meeting the girl outside the Chinese, but he said it was she who instigated any sexual activity between them. The Belfast man also said he believed she was older, that she told him she was 19 and that anything that occurred was consensual.
Before the verdicts were delivered, Judge Patricia Smith addressed the public gallery and said any outbursts would not be tolerated.