Page last updated at 16:52 GMT, Monday, 24 May 2010 17:52 UK

Two boys guilty of attempted rape charges in London

The girl gave evidence by videolink  from another room in the court
Both boys were ordered to register as sex offenders

Two boys aged 10 and 11 have been found guilty of attempted rape of an eight-year-old girl in London.

But they were cleared at the Old Bailey of raping the girl near her west London home.

The girl had alleged she was raped in a field in October 2009. She was taken to hospital complaining of stomach pains.

The boys, who were both 10 at the time and cannot be named, had each denied two charges of rape and two of attempted rape of a child under 13.

The boys, who will not be sentenced for at least another eight weeks to allow reports to be prepared, were given bail.

The jury of six men and six women were given a majority direction from the judge, Mr Justice Saunders.

The boys were found guilty of attempted rape by majorities of 10 to two.

They were convicted of two counts of attempted rape and cleared of two counts of rape.

After delivering the verdict, the judge told jurors: "It was an extremely difficult case. No doubt it was traumatic for you to some extent as well to hear this case."

The Crown Prosecution Service said it was determined to ensure a fair trial

Turning to the defendants, he said: "There is little I can say which would make either parents or boys feel better, but the welfare and best interests of the children have a high priority in any sentencing procedure."

Both boys were ordered to register as sex offenders, although the judge said he was "not quite sure" how this applied to children of their age.

Prosecutors told the trial that the boys had approached the girl when she was playing with a friend.

The jury heard that she was taken to a block of flats, a bin shed and a field.

The girl's mother told the court she had found her daughter with the boys near a field after another child said the pair were hurting her.

But barristers for the boys, among the youngest to be prosecuted for rape, said the pair had only been playing a game like doctors and nurses.

When she was cross-examined earlier in the trial, the eight-year-old told the court she had lied to her mother about what had happened because she had been "naughty" and was worried she would not get any sweets.

Looked exhausted

Mr Justice Saunders previously refused pleas from the boys' barristers to throw out the case after the girl admitted she had not been truthful about some of her evidence.

He said that the girl had been consistent in what she told adults, including police and doctors, soon after the incident and said she had looked exhausted at the end of her evidence.

After the trial, Alison Saunders, chief Crown prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service London, said the allegations made by the young girl were "very serious" and the decision to prosecute "was not taken lightly".

She said: "She had given a clear and compelling account to the police and her account was consistent with the medical evidence and with the accounts given by other witnesses to the police."

Sadly, we still have a way to go to make sure courts work in the best way for children
Barbara Esam, NSPCC lawyer

Det Ch Insp Peter Holdcroft said: "This was a very complex investigation involving a very young girl but throughout the investigation, her accounts remained consistent.

"I would like to thank her for her courage in coming forward to the police."

NSPCC lawyer Barbara Esam said: "Research has shown that many young witnesses don't understand the questions they are asked under cross-examination so we believe a pre-recorded interview - with the help of an intermediary in appropriate cases- to be a much better option.

"Sadly, we still have a way to go to make sure courts work in the best way for children - both defendants and witnesses - who will be frightened and need support all the way through the judicial process if they are going to give their best evidence."

The judge invited those involved in the case to make observations about how it had been conducted.

"That is not to indicate that there is anything wrong, but we should do everything we can to improve how we deal with these things by looking at the lessons that we can learn," he explained.

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