Man cleared of raping woman outside Tyrone nightclub during hen party
A Co Down man has been cleared of raping a female at her cousin's hen night in Cookstown.
Jamie Hunter never disputed that sexual contact occurred but maintained it was consensual, claiming there was a "spark" between them.
Mr Hunter (24), from Rathfriland Road, Dromara, denied committing the offence in a nightclub car park on July 5, 2015.
In a trial lasting just over two weeks at Dungannon Crown Court, the defence argued sexual activity was consensual, with the prosecution contending the complainant was too drunk to consent.
The complainant had accepted being "well and truly drunk" when she met Hunter.
CCTV footage showed them leaving the club, both appearing unsteady. Hunter took the complainant's hand and pulled her a short distance, then placed his arm around her waist, before they crossed the car park and entered an area of trees.
Twenty minutes later security staff escorted the complainant back indoors, having found her in the car park.
Body-cam footage captured the complainant's ripped clothing and a bleeding, grazed knee.
Staff assisted the distressed complainant noting "nothing right" about her clothes. She said: "I'm scared… it wasn't right what he was doing… I told him stop."
Hunter was arrested at his home the following day, replying after caution: "What the hell?"
He later said: "I kissed a girl… it's her word against mine."
During interview Hunter said: "She was loving it. She wasn't telling me to stop or anything."
At trial he confirmed talking to the complainant at the bar.
"The mood was good," he said. "It was too warm so I was going outside for fresh air. She said: 'I'll go with you'. There was a spark."
Hunter described walking to an area of trees where: "We kissed. Things started to heat up." The complainant began to undo his belt, but he responded: "Stop, we're too drunk. She said it would be okay. She lay down and I got on top."
Sexual contact followed, with Hunter adamant he knew they were too drunk and stopped.
The pair headed back to the nightclub when the complainant fell. He went to assist, but security staff appeared and noted her dishevelled state.
Hunter emphasised distinctly hearing one of the staff ask the complainant: "Did he do that to you?", saying she replied: "No."
Asked by his barrister if sex was consensual, Hunter said: "Yes - she instigated it. Nothing about her behaviour made me think she did not consent."
Under cross-examination he accepted being sexually attracted to the complainant and, when asked why he believed there was a spark, replied: "She didn't walk off."
He added: "It was me who said stop... she was drunk, but she knew what she was doing."
After around three hours of deliberations the jury returned a majority verdict of not guilty.
Judge Neil Rafferty told Mr Hunter: "You are free to go without a blemish on your character."
The judge referred to the two female security personnel who assisted the complainant, remarking: "The manner in which they dealt with this was gentle, tender, caring and professional.
"I wish to formally place on record their behaviour was an exceptional demonstration of humanity and I commend them for their actions."