Chester-le-Street pensioner's conviction overturned on appeal

First published in News The Northern Echo: Static HTML image by , Chief Reporter (Durham)

A PENSIONER’S convictions for sexually assaulting a teenage girl more than two decades ago was yesterday quashed at the Court of Appeal.

Neil Sharp, 75, of New Bridge Bank, Chester-le-Street, was jailed for two years at Newcastle Crown Court, in September.

It followed majority guilty verdicts returned by a jury on four counts of indecent assault, after a four-day trial at Durham Crown Court, in July.

But three judges sitting at London’s Court of Appeal yesterday ruled the verdicts were “unsafe” and quashed the convictions.

Lord Justice Laws also said it was not “in the public interest” for a retrial to be staged as Mr Sharp has already served two more than months in prison and is in poor health.

In his defence at trial, Mr Sharp said he had a medical condition which would have made it impossible for some of the offences to have taken place and denied any wrong-doing.

His appeal arose over evidence given by a witness in answer to a question at the trial, which Mr Sharp’s lawyers argued was “prejudicial”.

Giving the appeal judgement, Lord Justice Laws, sitting with Mr Justice Griffith Williams and Mr Justice Males, agreed the convictions should be overturned.

They said the jury should have been told the witness’s comment came unexpectedly at the end of her evidence and they ought to have been told how it may affect their consideration of the allegations,.

“We have concluded that the jury's verdict is unsafe and, on those grounds, the appeal against conviction falls to be allowed.”

The judges then rejected the prosecution application for a retrial in the case.

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