A jury has cleared a young man of raping a woman three times in an alleyway.
And minutes after delivering their verdict the judge told the jurors he agreed with their decision.
They took just 10 minutes to find Aaron Poole not guilty of the three offences and he broke down in tears of relief in the dock at Liverpool Crown Court.
Discharging him Judge Clement Goldstone, QC, the Recorder of Liverpool, said, “He has had 11 months, I imagine, of anguish awaiting the outcome of this case as a result of a very foolish decision on his part.”
Poole, 20, of Clifton Road, Leigh, had admitted going into the ginnel with the woman, who like him had been drinking, but said that all the sexual activity that took place was consensual.
Judge Goldstone told the jury of seven women and five men: “Whether a judge agrees with jury is of no relevance to the court procedure but it may be of some comfort for you to know I do agree with your verdict.”
During the four-day trial the jury had heard that on February 19 the alleged 20-year-old victim went out with friends drinking in Wigan before they returned back to Leigh and they eventually ended up in the Pulp bar.
Poole, who had been out to Manchester drinking with friends, had also returned to the town and was in the same club, said Neville Biddle, prosecuting.
They met and after some sexual touching, about 3am, they decided to go down a nearby back alleyway and the woman agreed that she willingly performed a sex act on him.
She alleged that Poole then had sex with her in various ways three times and she denied that she had consented to that. After they were disturbed by someone coming there to urinate they walked out of the alley. After later speaking to her friends and her granny the police were called at about 6am.
Poole strenuously disputed her claims. He told the court that while they had not spoken directly about having sex when they left the club, “it was in both our minds.”
Asked by his barrister, Tom Watson: “Were you aggressively forcing yourself on her?” He replied, “No.”
“Did anything happen in that ginnel as far as you are concerned that was in anyway against her will?” he asked. “No”, said Poole.
Cross-examined by Mr Biddle, Poole reiterated: “At no point did she not consent.”
He denied that he had his hands around her neck at one stage and pointed out that she had taken down her pants and not him.
“Did you hear her saying she did not want to do it?” asked Mr Biddle. “No,” he replied.