[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 25 November, 2004, 14:55 GMT
Footballers cleared of teen rape
L-R: Ashley Campbell, Terrell Forbes, Shane Sutherland, Kevin George, Philip Mighton, Darren Wallace
The judge ordered all the footballers to be cleared of rape
A group of footballers accused of gang raping a 15-year-old girl have been cleared of all charges after the judge said her evidence was unreliable.

Terrell Forbes, 23, of Grimsby Town, Philip Mighton, 23, Darren Wallace, 23, Ashley Campbell, 21, and Shane Sutherland, 21, all denied rape.

They were cleared at Kingston Crown Court on Thursday. Kevin George, 22, had been cleared on Wednesday.

The teenager claimed she was held for a day at a flat in south-east London.

The judge directed the jury to return not guilty verdicts on those acquitted on Thursday, which included ex-Queen's Park Rangers player Mr Forbes, after hearing lengthy legal arguments from their barristers.

The possibility of such an outcome (guilty verdicts) would be to risk a major miscarriage of justice
Judge Michael Hucker
Judge Michael Hucker said the 15-year-old's evidence had a "basic and inherent weakness" and described it as "seriously inconsistent".

He told the court: "When I first saw the papers in this case some three weeks ago... I concluded in my mind that only a miracle could save the defendants from conviction and a double-figure sentence, provided the complainant was a credible witness.

"I now take the view that to risk even the possibility of such an outcome would be to risk a major miscarriage of justice."

The judge described events in the flat as "wholly disgraceful".

Mr Forbes, of New Cross, south London, Mr Mighton, and Mr Campbell from Brockley, south London, admitted having consensual sex with the girl at the flat but denied raping her.

Text messages

Mr Sutherland, from Anerley, admitted taking part in a consensual sexual act.

Mr Wallace, of Brockley, admitted being at Mighton's flat on the night of the incident but denied having sex with the girl.

The legal arguments presented to the judge in the absence of the jury by the men's barristers recounted "lies" told by the girl.

These included a claim she had received death threats and had been thrown out of her home.

During the teenager's six days of evidence she admitted she had not mentioned her "ordeal" to friends in text messages she sent that night and phone conversations she had.

The court was told she also failed to dial 999 at any point or escape when the only remaining member of the group was asleep.

'Vindicated character'

Mr Forbes said the last nine months were "hell to live through" and that he now wanted to focus on his career as a footballer.

He said: "My reputation has been attacked through the last few months. I wish for all to respect my vindicated character and reputation.

"The result today allows me to continue playing football, which is all I ever wanted to do."

Mr Mighton said it was a relief that it was all over.

Mr Wallace and Mr Sutherland did not wish to comment on the ruling.


SEE ALSO:
'Gang rape teenager was filmed'
18 Nov 04 |  London


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific