Judge throws out underage sex case

York Crown Court
York Crown Court

A SCARBOROUGH man walked free from court yesterday after he was acquitted of having sex with an underage schoolgirl.

Neil Holt, 22, of St Mary’s Walk, was alleged to have committed the offence on two occasions between September and December 2009 at his family home in Northstead.

However, Judge Stephen Ashurst ruled that the prosecution case was so weak that it could not result in a safe conviction and instructed the jury to deliver a not guilty verdict.

The jury at York Crown Court heard a number of inconsistencies between the evidence given by the complainant, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, and her friend, whom it was claimed the teenager had confided in.

There was also a complete lack of any independent evidence, such as forensics or mobile phone records.

Addressing the jury after coming to his decision, Judge Ashurst said: “There is evidence before you and allegations made which are very much at odds with other evidence. There are some glaring inconsistencies.

“If you were to accept the evidence of the complainant’s friend, and there is no reason not to, you come to the conclusion that the complainant told a number of very significant lies. Fairness demands that this case stops at this juncture.”

The court heard that the girl had told her friend that she had been in a long-term relationship with Mr Holt for well over a year and had been raped, fell pregnant and miscarried.

Evidence was also provided by the friend’s mother, who said her daughter had believed that was the case.

However, there was no evidence that the girl had ever been pregnant and when giving evidence, she refused to acknowledge that she had made the claim.

There were also items which she described as being in Mr Holt’s bedroom, including a DVD, boxer shorts and a Wii games console, which were never found when police searched the home.

“If the defendant had had a sexual encounter with the girl and had no reason to think the police would be involved, he would have no reason to try and hide these items,” Judge Ashurst said.

He added: “Having given this matter considerable thought overnight, I have come to the conclusion that while the evidence may provide a good deal of material for the jury to speculate on, and suspicions may be raised about the nature of the relationship between the defendant and complainant, this is one of those situations where the quality and reliability of witnesses is inherently weak and inconsistent.”