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Last Updated: Friday, 28 November, 2003, 16:42 GMT
'Abuse gang' convictions quashed
Three men who were jailed seven years ago after two young girls named them as members of a paedophile gang have had their convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal.

The men were found guilty of offences including conspiracy to commit rape and indecent assault on the girls, aged 11 and 14 at the time of the 1996 trial in Kent.

Ernest Bond, now 64, was jailed for six years, Paul Frost-Smith, now 49, for 12 years and Barry Cook, also 49, was given an eight-year-sentence at Maidstone Crown Court.

However, three appeal judges in London ruled on Friday that allegations made after the trial by one of the girls cast doubt on her credibility.

Inconsistent allegations

Jurors at the original trial had heard how the girls were subjected to a series of attacks, including gang rape, between 1991 and 1995 at addresses in Gravesend, Kent.

But the appeal court heard how shortly afterwards, one of the girls made further, sometimes inconsistent allegations implicating up to 20 people, including her mother and two families of neighbours, in the abuse.

The watchdog Criminal Cases Review Commission took up the case because of concerns the girl may have accused innocent men she did not like.

Lord Justice Potter, sitting with Mr Justice Cresswell and Mr Justice Jack, said there was no doubt the girls were subjected to abuse within a probable paedophile ring almost certainly involving friends and neighbours.

But he said it was impossible to say whether the three men would still have been convicted if her later statement had been available at the time of the trial.

The alleged gang leader, Richard McGuire, 63, was jailed for 12 years and has not appealed.

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