INNOCENT Ryan Hope has told of his hopes for the future – but admitted how he nearly ‘crumbled’ under the stress of child sex allegations.
Speaking after being found not guilty of sexual offences – including child rape – Weymouth and Portland’s youngest councillor and community stalwart Mr Hope said if it wasn’t for the support of family and friends, as well as people who have sent goodwill messages, he wouldn’t have been able to get through the ordeal.
Although he was found not guilty of all charges, he feels he may be ‘tainted’ by the case in future.
He told how he was the victim of an assault when allegations were first made against him.
Mr Hope, whose life has been ‘on hold’ for the past 16 months, said he was looking forward to ‘rebuilding his life’ – including rejoining the Liberal Democrat group on the borough council and getting back involved with community organisations.
Mr Hope was suspended from the party after a delay while he faced charges, sitting as an independent on the council. It came after intervention from leader Nick Clegg who criticised the local party for failing to notify the leadership about the situation.
Mr Hope said he felt there had been a lack of support from party head office, but he owed it to his council colleagues who have supported him, and to the electors of Westham North, to rejoin the Lib Dems.
He added that he felt there had been some unfair comments levelled at him during the saga by Labour councillors.
Mr Hope, 22, stood trial last week charged with eight sexual offences, which included multiple accusations of rape and sexual assault of a child under 13.
A jury took just 38 minutes to reach the unanimous verdict of not guilty on all counts.
The court heard numerous times about his efforts to help others and to represent the Westham community and many people took to the stand to defend him.
Mr Hope said: “Now this ordeal is over I’m now looking to rebuilding my life and I hope to continue with my charity and community work I feel passionately about.
“The allegations caused my life to be on hold.
“It meant I had to give up most of the work I’ve enjoyed doing and the many positions I worked hard to achieve.
“The allegations have affected my life, my health and wellbeing. This includes an assault when I had my teeth knocked out.
“As a result of the attack I am now quite nervy in groups.”
He added: “Without the support I’ve had throughout this I think I would have dealt with the situation in a different manner.
“I don’t think I would have been able to cope. I would have crumbled.”
Mr Hope said he was ‘exhausted’ and was still coming to terms with the outcome of the trial.
He added: “I believe I will be tainted by these allegations by a minority of people. It’s always going to have an effect on my life.”
'Group had no doubts'
LIB Dem leader on the borough council Ian Roebuck said there would be a meeting to reinstate Ryan Hope as a member of the group.
He said: “The group never had any doubts about Ryan’s innocence.
“As far as I’m concerned the way he behaved, with fortitude and dignity, has only strengthened my high regard for him.
“He has already achieved an enormous amount for Weymouth and has a great deal more to give.”
Mr Roebuck said there had been attempts by the South Dorset Labour party to challenge how he has dealt with the situation, including Mr Hope’s suspension which was delayed.
He maintains that he was given advice by Lib Dem head office.
He took it to mean he had discretion in how he dealt with the situation.
Labour group leader on the council Colin Huckle said some comments had been made.
But he said that it was only because they wanted Mr Hope to ‘stand back and clear his name’, which he said he had now done.