A MAN accused of raping a teenager he invited back to his flat to smoke cannabis has been acquitted after a three-day trial.

Paul Lee nodded and gave thumbs up signs from the dock after the verdict was returned on him by a jury at Teesside Crown Court.

The 40-year-old was accused of attacking the complainant after they both went to his flat in Station Road, Darlington, where the girl drank several cups of Lambrini Lee had bought.

She had described being forced onto a bed and raped and said Lee was “on something” and “out of it”.

Lee, who has past convictions for grabbing a 12-year-old’s bottom and groping the breast of a 15-year-old, had pleaded not guilty to rape and denied any sexual contact with the complainant following his arrest on February 24 this year.

The court heard that the teenage girl had not agreed to a medical examination at the police station and refused to hand over her mobile phone to aid the investigation.

Earlier, Lee’s barrister Tom Mitchell said she had lied about the rape to “hide the shame and embarrassment” she felt from having gone off with the defendant.

He said even if the jury had their suspicions about what occurred in the flat, they could not be sure on the evidence and urged them to return a not guilty verdict.

Mr Mitchell also suggested the girl had made a “false report” to police in 2017 after claiming she had been assaulted by two men as she walked across a field

He said extensive CCTV enquiries were carried out along the route she had taken, but failed to show the teenager or the suspects and when challenged about this she said she must have taken a different route.

Mr Mitchell said subsequently the teenager contacted police to say she did not want to pursue a complaint and the investigation was closed.

He told the jury: “This should cause you a very high degree of anguish.

“That she is prepared to continue to make untrue allegations of this kind….cannot allay your concerns, it can only magnify them.”

Despite his acquittal Lee, who is understood to be moving to Gateshead, was made subject to an indefinite restraining order by Recorder Simon Kealey prohibiting him from future contact with the teenager whether directly or indirectly.