Belfast man acquitted of raping schoolgirl (14) as trial halted
The trial of a 30-year-old man accused of the rape of a 14-year-old schoolgirl was dramatically halted yesterday when he was acquitted after the prosecution offered no further evidence against him.
Belfast man Thomas Reynolds had always maintained that he believed the girl was at least 19 and only learned of her true age just before she was collected from his mother's home in the early hours of the morning.
Mr Reynolds, now with an address in Co Down, also claimed that when he met the girl she told him she was 20, and that any sexual contact between them had been consensual.
Following the announcement by prosecution QC Richard Weir, Belfast Crown Court Judge Geoffrey Miller QC directed the jury of 11 to find Mr Reynolds "not guilty by direction" of each of the eight charges he had denied.
They included two of rape, sexual assault and penetration, and inciting a child to engage in sex, all between May 23 and 26, 2017.
During two days of evidence the court heard that Mr Reynolds was a passenger in a BMW car which picked up the girl and her older friend after stopping and chatting to them and another girl.
The three girls had spent the evening walking about and drinking Frosty Jack, an alcoholic drink after having a Chinese meal. The court also heard that the girl was given cocaine to snort from a "silver key" and WKD to drink in the car, although the girl claimed she said she was only 14 when the subject of age came up.
However, during his interviews with police Mr Reynolds maintained that it was only after an early morning call to her mobile shortly before her mother came to collect her that the girl "revealed her age".