A WEST Belfast father-of-two was yesterday found not guilty by direction of the court of raping a teenage boy in the Falls Park.
40-year-old Gerard Scannell faced four charges arising from an alleged attack against the boy, who was 16 at the time. The teenager claimed he was dragged into bushes and raped in July 2016.
Mr Scannell, a painter and decorator from Ballymurphy Road, had repeatedly denied three counts of rape and a further offence of sexual assault. At the time Belfast Magistrates Court heard how Mr Scannell was forensically linked to a t-shirt found near the scene of the alleged rape.
However, it was also revealed that intimate samples taken from the teenager found no traces of the accused’s DNA.
On Wednesday Belfast Crown Court said it would not be proceeding with the case and Mr Scannell was found “not guilty by direction of the court”.
The trial which opened in January had to be aborted after the alleged injured party refused to continue with his evidence. During his cross-examination, the teenager got up mid-question and said: “I’m going home.”
A retrial was due to commence yesterday (Wednesday), but after a jury was sworn in, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC was told that the Crown would not be offering any evidence in the case.
As a result, Mr Scannell was acquitted on all four charges.
When Mr Scannell was told he was free to go, his family applauded in the public gallery and he was hugged as he left the court.
Speaking outside the court Mr Scannell said: “Since July 2016, I have faced unbearable anguish, removal from my home and family, and have spent some of this time in prison. I am both grateful and relieved to have been found not guilty of these allegations some two years later.”
Mr Scannell spoke of how his life had been “destroyed” over the past two years.
“I have been removed from my family and community – but I hope now to be able to rebuild my life and return to my community, with the help of my family. I will be forever grateful to all who supported me through this difficult process. I am also thankful to my legal team, and my faith in the legal process has been restored.
“I hope now, with the help of my family, to regain my standing within society and my own community.”