Northern Ireland

Musician Francis McPeake is acquitted of sex offences

Francis McPeake Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Francis McPeake was cleared of all 12 charges of child sexual abuse

Traditional Irish musician Francis McPeake has been cleared of all 12 charges of sexually abusing a girl.

The 72-year-old had denied the charges allegedly involving a 15 year old.

Mr McPeake from Eliza Street Close, Belfast, was acquitted at Belfast Crown Court on Monday.

He looked up and breathed sighs of relief as the foreman of the jury delivered unanimous verdicts of "not guilty" on each count.

The woman whom he had been accused of abusing, wept in the public gallery.

She is now 20 years old and she had claimed she was involved in a sexual relationship with Mr McPeake when she was a 15-year-old schoolgirl.

She left the court before all 12 verdicts were returned.

Mr McPeake thanked the jury as he left the dock.

In the trial, that lasted more than two weeks, the jury of six men and six women heard evidence from the woman involved, her friends and several family members.

The woman claimed she and the pensioner first became intimate during a cross-border music trip in 2009, and that when they returned to Belfast, their relationship became sexual.

The jury also heard evidence from Mr McPeake, who told them that all the allegations against him were untrue.

He said that at the time, he was offering support and guidance to a troubled teenager who was going through personal problems - maintaining that nothing sexual or intimate ever occurred between them.

Mr McPeake did not comment as he left Laganside Courts.

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