Northern Ireland

Afghanistan veteran from Belfast admits oral rape

Laganside court complex
Image caption There were clashed at the Laganside court complex during the hearing

A former soldier who served in Afghanistan has pleaded guilty to the oral rape and physical assault of a woman he threatened to kill.

Gerald Verner admitted orally raping, falsely imprisoning, threatening to kill and causing actual bodily harm to the woman on 6 February 2011.

On Monday, the jury was told that Verner, 23, attacked his victim at his home in Forthriver Park in Belfast.

Verner was remanded into custody ahead of sentencing in March.

On Monday, the prosecuting barrister at Belfast Crown Court said Verner had taken the woman prisoner, sexually attacked her, threatened to kill her and punched and kicked her in the face.

As Verner entered guilty pleas to five of the seven charges against him on Tuesday, his victim sat just feet away in the public gallery being comforted by a male relative.

After the prosecution offered no evidence on two charges of rape and sexual assault, Judge Gemma Loughran directed the jury to acquit Verner on those charges.

Moments after Verner - who was partially deafened by an explosion while in Afghanistan - was led from the dock, some of his relatives and supporters clashed with members of his victim's family.

At one point 12 uniformed officers had to physically restrain a number of people as Judge Loughran repeatedly called for the court to be cleared.

The officers had to keep the factions apart on the public walkway on the fourth floor at the Laganside court complex.

Verner will be sentenced once reports and a victim impact statement have been completed.