Francis McPeake acquitted of 12 sexual offences against 15-year old

Traditional Irish musician said accusations against him were lies

 Traditional Irish musician Francis McPeake leaves Laganside Court today. Photograph:  Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Traditional Irish musician Francis McPeake leaves Laganside Court today. Photograph: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

 

Traditional Irish musician Francis McPeake was today acquitted of a total of 12 sexual offences against a 15-year old schoolgirl.

After deliberating the 12 charges over a period of around four hours, the foreman of the jury told a packed Belfast Crown Court that they had reached a unanimous not-guilty verdict on all the charges that were levelled against the 72-year old musician, from Eliza Street Close in Belfast

The woman - who is now 20 and who claimed she was involved in a sexual relationship with Mr McPeake when she was a 15-year old schoolgirl - left the court before all 12 verdicts were returned.

When all the not-guilty verdicts were returned, Judge David McFarland told Mr McPeake: “You have now been acquitted by this jury of all the charges. You are now free to go.” At this point, Mr McPeake looked over at the jury and said “thank you very much, thank you”

In a trial that spanned two weeks, Mr McPeake was accused of several offences, including sexual activity with a child. The woman claimed she and the pensioner first became intimate during a cross-border music trip in 2009, and that when they returned to Belfast, their relationship became sexual.

However, this was always denied by Mr McPeake, who branded the girl’s allegations as “lies”.

During a trial which spanned over two weeks, the jury of six men and six women heard evidence from the girl, her friends and several family members. The jury also heard evidence from Mr McPeake, who told them that all the allegations against him were untrue. He said that at the time, he was offering support and guidance to a troubled teenager who was going through personal problems - maintaining that nothing sexual or intimate ever occurred between them.

* This article was amended on Friday 03/10/14