Northern Ireland

William George McVeigh found not guilty of raping 14-year-old girl

Belfast court complex
Image caption The trial of William George McVeigh lasted three weeks

A 28-year-old man has been cleared by a jury after being accused of raping a 14-year-old in north Belfast in 2015.

The jury deliberated for over four hours before returning a majority not guilty verdict in favour of William George McVeigh.

Mr McVeigh, from Forthriver Green in the Ballygomartin area of Belfast, was also acquitted of two alternative charges - sexual activity with a child and sexual assault.

The trial spanned three weeks.

Mr McVeigh had been accused of raping the teenager in Woodvale Park in the early hours of Saturday, 31 October 2015.

The court heard evidence from both the teenager, her mother and Mr McVeigh.

The court was also shown CCTV footage taken from various locations on the Shankill Road, which captured the girl and Mr McVeigh together.

During the trial, Belfast Crown Court heard that after attending a birthday party at a local pub, the teenager and her friend walked towards a Chinese takeaway on Lanark Way, where they became separated.

After encountering Mr McVeigh - who had been drinking at a friend's house - at the takeaway, they started walking up the Shankill Road.

The girl, who is now 16, admitted she was so drunk on the night in question that she could barely recall meeting Mr McVeigh outside the takeaway, that she could not recall what happened and that she had only a vague recollection of being in Woodvale Park with him.

Prosecutors argued that Mr McVeigh took the girl into Woodvale Park, where he raped her.

However, this claim was rejected by the jury.

Mr McVeigh had admitted meeting the girl at the takeaway, but he said it was her who instigated any sexual activity between them.

He also said he believed she was older, that she told him she was 19 and that anything that occurred was consensual.

Before the verdicts were delivered, the judge addressed the public gallery and said any outbursts would not be tolerated.

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