Belfast Telegraph

Man accused of vicious rape in Tyrone park cleared by jury

By Staff Reporter

A man deemed mentally unfit to stand trial for rape after a woman was jumped in a park and repeatedly sexually assaulted has been freed after a jury found he had not committed the offences.

Instead of a criminal trial, the case of James Wright (24) was dealt with as a 'finding of fact' procedure at Dungannon Crown Court.

Judge Neil Rafferty advised the jury their task was to return findings of 'committed' or 'not committed' as opposed to guilty or not guilty.

Wright had been refused bail on a number of occasions since his arrest, but was later released from Maghaberry Prison to a secure hospital.

He attended court each day accompanied in the dock by two specialist medical staff throughout proceedings.

There were six charges arising from the incident which occurred on the afternoon of April 27, 2016 as the victim walked in Peatlands Park, on the outskirts of Dungannon.

These involved three counts each of rape and sexual assault, in what was previously described as "a serious, ambush attack".

The court heard the victim had been walking her dog in the park at around 2.30pm when she became aware of a man cycling around.

She encountered him from a distance several more times and at one point asked him: "Are you following me?"

Shortly after this the victim was grabbed by the shoulders.

She screamed but the attacker placed a hand over her mouth and, realising no help was coming, she resigned herself to the situation.

The woman was terrified and thought it best to be compliant as she knew her attacker was physically stronger than her and could not be sure if he had a weapon.

He wrestled her to the ground, took off her clothes, then removed his trousers and shoes. A number of serious sexual assaults took place, with the victim raped after being put to the ground on her back.

She was then turned onto her stomach and raped again.

She asked the attacker his name but he replied: "I can't tell you that. You will tell someone and I'll get into trouble."

When the attack ended, police were contacted and secured the scene.

Wright, of Derrylee Road in Dungannon, would later be arrested at his home, a short distance from Peatlands Park. There were three full days of hearing evidence from the victim, police, forensic and medical witnesses.

On the fourth day the jury were reminded of the evidence by Judge Rafferty, before retiring to deliberate.

After around three hours, the jury was recalled and advised a majority finding would be accepted.

Some 20 minutes later the jury indicated they had a result, and on their return Wright was cleared of all charges by a majority decision.

A defence counsel said Wright is currently resident in a secure hospital.

However, Judge Rafferty said Wright was now a free man.

"The court has no further powers in this matter," he said.

"As far as I'm concerned this man is free to go."

Wright's parents and sisters broke down in tears, and rushed to hug him as he was freed from the dock and custody.

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