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Man shot by dissidents has schoolgirl rape conviction quashed

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Belfast High Court

Belfast High Court

Belfast High Court

A man shot by dissident republicans after being found guilty of raping a schoolgirl has had his conviction quashed.

The Court of Appeal ruled the verdict returned against Keith John Burnside was unsafe due to issues of potential prejudice to his defence.

The 38-year-old, from Rosemount Gardens in Londonderry, had been jailed for attacking the 15-year-old girl in the city in 2000.

It took another six years for her to tell her mother of the alleged rape, with a statement later made to police.

Mr Burnside was found guilty following a second trial at Londonderry Crown Court in 2009.

He was jailed for seven and a half years and ordered to sign the sex offenders' register for an indeterminate period.

But before the sentencing he was shot in both legs during a paramilitary punishment attack.

His lawyers challenged the conviction due to the delay in the complaint being made against him.

They contended that the jury was not properly directed on the potential prejudice this caused.

On that basis a panel of three judges, led by Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, held that the guilty verdict was unsafe.

Quashing the conviction, they decided not to order a retrial.

Mr Burnside's lawyer, Kevin Winters, said he was "overwhelmed" at having his name cleared after two trials.

"Although he spent many years in jail during which time he wasn't able to see his young son he is relived that justice was finally done, allowing him to return to his family a free man," the solicitor said.

"In a case like this it's very important that the public know about someone having their good name restored because up until now it was still reported that he had a conviction for a serious sexual assault."

Mr Winters added: "Our client not only served time for something he didn't do, but he was also the victim of a serious attack.

"He can now re-apply for compensation unfairly withheld from him for a broken leg sustained during a vicious paramilitary-style attack."

Belfast Telegraph