Liverpool

Strictly's Ricky Whittle cleared of dangerous driving

Strictly Come Dancing star Ricky Whittle has been cleared of deliberately driving into a photographer.

The former Hollyoaks actor was accused of veering into photographer Stephen Farrell, who was trying to take his picture in Liverpool in November 2009.

But a jury at Liverpool Crown Court cleared the 30-year-old of dangerous driving following a three-day trial.

Mr Whittle, of Billinge, Wigan, had denied the charge.

Gazza punch

Prosecutors claimed the former model was "irritated" by the photographer trying to take a picture of him with his ex-girlfriend, Hollyoaks actress Carley Stenson.

CCTV footage was shown to jurors showing his red Dodge car veering into the photographer, who was knocked to the kerb.

But the jury decided the star, who was runner-up in the BBC dance show in 2009, did not intentionally turn his wheel towards Mr Farrell.

The incident happened in the early hours of 27 November 2009, following a party for the cast and crew of Hollyoaks at Liverpool's Parr Street Studios.

Mr Whittle and Miss Stenson had split up three weeks before the event but had remained friends and did not want to fuel media speculation by being photographed together, the court heard.

The actor, who had agreed to give his ex-girlfriend a lift home, had arranged to pick up Miss Stenson and her friend on nearby Duke Street to avoid paparazzi.

But the women were followed by photographers and autograph hunters, the court heard.

Image caption Mr Farrell suffered a sprained knee and injured hand in the collision

Freelance photographer Mr Farrell, who the court heard was punched in the face by Paul Gascoigne in 2005, began taking pictures of the car as the two women got in.

Mr Whittle claimed he had asked him not to, saying: "It's cold and the girls are only in dresses, just leave us alone."

Moments later, Mr Whittle revved the engine as he drove off and Mr Farrell was knocked back onto the kerb. He suffered a sprained knee and injured hand.

Speaking after the verdicts Mr Whittle said: "It's been nine months of hell. I'm so glad it's over."

Outside court he thanked his legal team, the jury and the police who he said had acted very fairly in their investigation into the allegations.

"I want to thank the people of Liverpool and the Mersey because they really have supported me on the way in and the way out from the courts," said Mr Whittle.

"It's been really touching. I have had so much support and messages and I just really want to thank them.

"It's a situation I want to move on from. I've got to get to a charity football game tonight and just want to move on to the next part of my career."

Mr Whittle was then asked whether the incident would affect his relationship with photographers.

He replied: "I have never had a problem with the press before and I won't in the future."

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