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- Weymouth councillor Ryan Hope has been cleared of all eight allegations of sexual abuse made against him.
Ryan Hope has been found not guilty of all charges made against him.
Speaking after the trial Mr Hope said: "I am just glad that this nightmare is over.
"It has been a long time and I have been assaulted and bullied because of this.
"I'm just glad that the truth has come out so I can carry on with my life.
“I fully intend to re-join the Liberal Democrats and look forward to joining and working with my colleagues again."
When asked about the support he has received and the number of character witnesses who came forward to speak for him, Mr Hope said: "It has been fantastic and speaks for itself and shows what fantastic friends I have got and I am pleased to have each and every one of them."
His family and friends packed into the courtroom for each day of the trial.
Sighs of relief and tears of joy were had by all of those who attended to support him.
Verdict: Not guilty on all eight charges
Jury have been called back in
The jury have retired to consider a verdict
The judge is summing up.
Mr Ruffell said: “Despite it being plastered all over the Echo, the Crown has not put forward one other person who has said ‘that happened to me.’”
He added: “In a country that is very cynical about politicians, there is hope with Ryan Hope.”
He told the jury that Hope has been described as having cooperated throughout with police and that there was not a single answer he gave then that has been proved to be untrue.
" Nothing to suggest he is a bully.
“He is well liked and indeed well loved.”
He said it is quite an achievement to see Hope’s first girlfriend’s mother giving evidence for him. He said that might indicate what type of person he is.
He said: “The alleged victim is quite capable of lying. As to why he has done it is a riddle.”
Mark Ruffell is continuing with his closing speech for the defence.
The court has resumed.
The court had stopped for lunch and will return at 2pm.
Mr Ruffell reminded the jury that the alleged victim returned to police with more detail about the allegations after initial press coverage in the Echo.
He said: “The allegations are odd in their lack of detail and in the way the alleged victim gave them to the police.”
“The only event the alleged victim remembers in some detail was a non-event,” Mr Ruffell said, as ‘no sexual contact’ was made.
The event refers to a time the alleged victim said Hope tried to ‘make him’ have sex with him in a car in Weymouth.
He said: “We suggest that he was making that account up as he went along in the police interview. When he saw the effect of what he had done in the press, he went back to embellish his account.
“Another detail that has fallen apart when looked at.”
He added: “It is a made-up story.”
He said there was no mention of any details concerning the allegations of rape.
He said: “There was no mention of any of it,” and there would have been if the allegations were true.
He reminded the jury that the alleged victim was described as ‘a very angry teenager.’
Mr Ruffell said: “There are only two people who have been in this courtroom who know if what has been alleged is true.”
He said: “Emotion is not a good guide to truth.”
He told the jury: “Look at the detail and say ‘is he an accurate and truthful witness’ and can I be sure if Ryan Hope is guilty?”
Defence barrister Mark Ruffell is now giving his speech.
Finally she said to the jury: “It will be for you to decide whether he is guilty.
“The prosecution will say that you have had an awful lots of smoke and mirrors.”
Aspinall-Miles said that there were times when Hope and the alleged victim were alone.
She urged the jury to consider with caution about a statement made by a witness previously which described the alleged victim as a ‘liar.’
The witness told the court previously that this referred to friends and money and not the allegations.
Standing for the prosecution, Mary Aspinall-Miles said: “You have heard a stellar array of character witnesses, certificates and achievements and prizes.”
She added this ‘precisely’ illustrates why the alleged victim hesitated in bringing forward a claim.
She said the alleged victim continued to say Hope ‘would rape and sexually assault him.’
She told the jury that although he couldn’t be very specific about it, he stands by his claims.
She said the alleged victim has kept this to himself for a number of years and that was not the action of an ‘attention seeker.’
Closing speeches will now begin
He said: “Ryan is someone who I am very pleased to have as a colleague and friend. He has worked very hard for his community.
“He has a remarkable amount to give to Weymouth, far more than I have at my age.”
He said the allegations were ‘totally out of character.’
“When the allegations were made against Ryan, I spoke to the Chief Executive of the council and he confirmed that there was no reason that Ryan couldn’t continue to sit on the council.”
He said he reported it to the national party and ‘they told me that I ought to suspend him.’
He told the court that he took that to mean that he had some discretion in that decision, so decided to let him carry on sitting.
He then revealed that he was mistaken and that the national party had meant that Hope should have been suspended immediately.
This process was to make sure he was suitable to go forward for selection. Hope failed to be elected the first time missing out by three votes because he was ‘young’ and ‘inexperienced.’
In 2012 he was selected for Westham North ward and won.
He said he became aware of Hope in 2009. He said he was the chairman of the committee to decide if Hope was a suitable candidate to stand for the Lib Dem party.
He said he ‘vetted’ him and found nothing in his history that would bring shame on the party.
The court is back.
Next character witness is Ian Roebuck, Weymouth borough councillor and leader of the local Liberal Democrat group.
Court proceedings have halted for a short break.
Mr Edwards is telling the court more about Hope’s community and youth work in the area and how he started a youth forum. He is also telling the court how Hope started a garden project there and aimed to change perceptions of Westham.
Mr Edwards said Hope took over as chairman of the community group when he was just 18. Although Hope no longer has that role.
He said: “Ryan is bright, hardworking, good with people and works for his community."
He said he had never seen Hope behave inappropriately to any of the youth he had worked with.
He said: “I have never seen or had a report of anything like that at all.”
He has now left the stand.
The next witness is Chris Edwards a Westham resident and Chairman of the Westham Community Group.
He said that Westham is one of the most deprived areas in Dorset with many teenagers with nothing to do.
He said he got fed up of people moaning about this and wanted to get more understanding between young and elderly people.
He said he had discussions with Ryan about a petition Hope had started about revamping okay areas in the ward.
The court has heard how Hope got petitions signed to get a park built in Westham. How he started to get involved in groups and the carnival and then he became a councillor.
Tai-Mar Cox has left the stand.
She added: “We still have a lot of good thoughts for Ryan that is why when we heard about all of this, that is why we wanted to stand for him.”
She said the allegations were ‘completely out of character.’
The defence has called a fourth witness to the stand. Shannon Cox’s mother- Tai-Mar Cox
She told the court that Hope was ‘quite a big part of their family’ when he went out with her daughter, during the time frame of the allegations.
She has told the court about how Hope would spend evenings doing youth and community work and about his involvement in the Weymouth Carnival committee.
Tai-Mar Cox said: "I love Ryan to bits."
In cross examination, Mary Aspinall-Miles said: “You can’t account for all of Ryan Hope’s movements while you were going out?”
Shannon replied: “I go by his word because he has never lied to me.”
She denied remembering their relationship in a ‘favourable light’ to try and help him.
She denied this and said: “I wanted to try and help him as much as I can.”
Shannon has now left the stand.
She said he has never behaved inappropriately towards her. She said: “He is a kind and caring person. He always puts other people before himself.”
She said the allegations were ‘out of character.’
She told the court that she volunteered to give evidence as the allegations were things ‘he hasn’t done.’
Character witness Shannon Cox, former girlfriend of Ryan Hope has taken the stand.
She confirmed that Ryan worked at Salisbury market every Saturday. The jury has heard how the pair lived together in a flat in Weymouth.
The court has heard more about their relationship and time spent together during the time frame of the allegations.
The jury has been called to the court
Today the jury will hear from the defence including one more character witness.
Court has resumed after yesterday's adjournment