Nine men cleared of sex offences
Nine men accused of a string of sexual offences involving a teenage girl have walked free from court after the cases against them were dropped due to new evidence gleaned from Twitter.
There were sighs of relief from the dock and loud applause from the public gallery of Court 15 at the Old Bailey as the men were told they were discharged.
The men - Desmond Agyei, 23, Edward Kofi Edunya, 23, Perry Murray, 24, David Sarpong, 23, Adedeji Atitebi, 21, Austin Odisi, 24, Justin Maynard, 23, Olanrewaju Sonde, 24 and Thamsanqa Sibanda, 30 - had originally been charged with 28 offences, including several rapes.
But prosecutor Samantha Cohen told the judge there would be no evidence presented against them, after an old Twitter account used by the complainant - a then-14-year-old girl - had been examined at "the highest level" of the Crown Prosecution Service and the police.
The men, from London, remained silent as Judge John Bevan recorded not guilty verdicts.
Speaking as he left the courtroom, Mr Sonde said: "It's just a relief that this is finally over."
Ms Cohen told the court there was "no longer a realistic prospect of conviction" after evidence "came to light through a side-wind" when they discovered that the complainant had an old Twitter account which she had not disclosed.
She said: "The content of the archive tweets - which were not publicly available - is such as to render this a case where there is no realistic prospect of conviction."
The judge added: "It is unfortunate that it has happened so late (in the case). But these are very serious matters and these have to be gone into."
The men were initially arrested in a series of dawn raids in March this year.