'THE nightmare is over'- those were the words of Weymouth councillor Ryan Hope, who spoke to the Echo after he was cleared of all charges against him.
The jury of six men and six women took just 38 minutes to reach the unanimous verdict and found Ryan Hope not guilty on all eight counts.
It comes after a four day trial at Bournemouth Crown Court.
Mr Hope, 22, had been standing trial charged with eight sexual offences which included multiple accusations of rape and sexual assault of a child under 13.
He 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."
Friends and family packed into the courtroom for each day of the trial and sighs of relief and tears of joy were heard when the verdicts were read.
He is now looking towards a future in local politics and in the Weymouth community.
During the trial, the court heard numerous times about his efforts to help others and to represent his Westham community.
Many people took to the stand to defend him, all describing the allegations as completely 'out of character'
Mr Hope added: "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, he 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 everyone of them"
Ian Roebuck, Weymouth and Portland borough councillor and leader of the local LibDem group, took to the stand in defence of his 'colleague' and 'friend'.
Mr Hope was elected to represent Westham North for the LibDem party in 2012 as the youngest serving borough councillor in the borough.
Mr Roebuck 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."
Speaking after the verdict, Mr Hope's fellow LibDem councillor Christine James said: “I am pleased for Ryan. I don't think the case should ever have come to court.”
Chris Edwards, chairman of the Westham Community Group, spoke in court about Mr Hope's work in Westham.
He said that Westham is one of the most deprived areas in Dorset with many teenagers with nothing to do.
He spoke of Mr Hope's community and youth work in the area and how he started a youth forum and a garden project.
Mr Edwards said Mr Hope took over as chairman of the community group when he was just 18.
Day 4 in court
On the fourth day of the trial, more character witnesses took to the stand before closing speeches were made.
The charges included two counts of rape of a child under 13, one of which relates to multiple incidents, two counts of rape, one of which also relates to multiple incidents, two counts of sexual assault of a child under 13 and two counts of sexual assault, one of which relates to multiple incidents.
The allegations spanned during a time frame between October 17, 2004 and early in 2011.
The charges related to a single victim who is now 18 years old but cannot be named for legal reasons.
Judge Samuel Wiggs resided over the proceedings and 'summed up' the events for the jury.
In his closing speech defence barrister Mark Ruffell told the jury: “There are only two people who have been in this courtroom who know if what has been alleged is true.
“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 added, as 'no sexual contact' was made.
He reminded the jury that the victim returned to the police with more information after seeing the initial report in the Dorset Echo.
Mr Ruffell told the court: “We suggest that he was making that account up.
"When he saw the effect of what he had done in the press, he went back to embellish his account."
He added: “The Crown has not put forward one other person who has said 'that happened to me.'
“The alleged victim is quite capable of lying. As to why he has done it is a riddle.
“In a country that is very cynical about politicians - there is hope with Ryan Hope."
The court heard from a series of character witnesses on the fourth day of the trial.
Character witness Shannon Cox, former girlfriend of Ryan Hope, said: "He is a kind and caring person. He always puts other people before himself.”
The defence also called her mother Tai-Mar Cox, who said she still 'loved Ryan to bits'.
Another witness Chris Edwards, the Chairman of the Westham Community Group.
He said: “Ryan is bright, hardworking, good with people and works for his community."
A number of other character witnesses came forward to defend Mr Hope as part of the defence case.
The jury heard from a number of witnesses about his award-winning youth and community work, his successful career at a Weymouth engineering firm and of how he became the youngest serving councillor in Weymouth and Portland.
In her closing speech 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 told the jury that although he couldn't be very specific about the allegations, 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.'
Ms Aspinall-Miles urged the jury to consider that there were times when Mr Hope and the alleged victim were alone.