A 38-year-old man who has been acquitted of sexually assaulting and raping a woman in the centre of Belfast said he now wants to put the experience behind him and move on with his life.
Speaking via his solicitor John Gibbons, Pondai Bamu said he was “delighted to be vindicated” after the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) revealed it would not be presenting any evidence in the case.
Yesterday’s acquittal comes after Mr Bamu spent a year in custody on remand for an incident he always claimed was consensual. Mr Bamu, who is originally from Zimbabwe and whose address was given as Johnstone Mews in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, was due to stand trial for the third time yesterday on two counts arising from an incident which occurred in the early hours of September 24, 2015.
Two previous trials that were opened at Belfast Crown Court were subsequently aborted, and as the third trial was due to commence at the same court, a Crown barrister revealed the PPS would not be offering any evidence.
After a jury of seven women and five men were sworn in, Roseanne McCormick QC told the court: “This is a matter in which the prosecution is not going to call any evidence.”
Following this, Her Honour Judge McCaffrey addressed the jury and said: “I must direct you to return a not guilty verdict in relation to both matters on which the defendant was charged.”
Mr Bamu was charged with two sexual offences alleged to have been carried out in an alleyway off Rosemary Street.
However, he always made the case that any sexual activity between him and the woman was consensual.
After the Crown offered no evidence, Mr Bamu was addressed by Judge McCaffrey, who told him: “You have been found not guilty by direction and therefore you are free to go.”
Speaking afterwards via his solicitor, Mr Bamu claimed there had been a question mark over the reliability of the complainant in the case. Solicitor John Gibbons said: “My client maintained his innocence from the very start. He is delighted that he has been vindicated, but obviously very annoyed at being held in custody on remand since his arrest a year ago.
“My client is happy the jury has been directed to find him not guilty, as that is what he is.
“He is looking forward to putting this traumatic experience behind him and getting on with his life.”