My life was hell, says man falsely accused of rape
A 25-year-old man falsely accused of rape says he spent the past 18 months “in a living hell”.
Gerard Doherty now wants the law changed to protect the identity of men accused of sex offences.
He also says that, while he feels sorry for his accuser, women who make false claims of rape should be named and face prosecution.
Mr Doherty said he had never been in a police station or inside a court in his life until a woman he was in a hotel bedroom with said she was raped by him.
The father of one always denied raping and sexually assaulting the woman and this week a jury in Londonderry agreed that he did not commit the offence.
He said: “Being accused of something like this is just about the worst thing any man can face because mud sticks... and that is something I am left with.
“I went back to the hotel room with the woman, but I thought there would be other people there, but she came on to me and when I pushed her away she hit me and said she was calling the police.
“I left but was waiting on the police to come because as far as I was concerned I had been assaulted, but instead I was the one who was being handcuffed (and) put in the back of a police car.
“I have never been in a police station in my life and there I was, being asked to strip naked and they took my clothes. It was the most humiliating and degrading thing I have ever experienced and to say I was terrified was an understatement.”
The ensuing months have taken the toll, not only on Mr Doherty but but also on his entire family.
He continued: “This has been a real nightmare for more than me. It has affected my partner, my parents and my brothers and sisters and I feel so sorry about that.
“One of the first things that happened after I was charged was that I lost my job and that's a thing that I have found hard to deal with.
“You are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, but the reality is you are treated as if you are guilty until you are found innocent,” he said.
“It never leaves your mind for a second. On and on it goes and then there are people who would have spoken to you but they walk past you shaking their head and that's hard to cope with too.”
After a few delays, the court case against Mr Doherty began in earnest and concluded last Thursday as the jury left the courtroom to consider their verdict.
The intervening three hours passed slowly for Mr Doherty with every second that ticked away seeming like a hour.
He continued: “Waiting on the jury was just horrific; at one stage I went outside the court house for a breath of air and I saw the prison van waiting and it hit me like a ton of bricks... that it was there for me if I was found guilty.
“I felt so helpless and scared; (it) hammered home how the jury had my future in their hands.
“When the foreman stood and said that they found me not guilty, everyone cried with relief,” he said. “Iit was one thing me knowing I was innocent but it was quite another hearing that they believed me.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital