Commenting on the outcome of the case Detective Chief Superintendent Paula Hilman, Head of Public Protection Branch said: “We accept and acknowledge the decision made by the jury in this case. We thank them and Her Honour Judge Smyth, for their time and commitment to what was a lengthy and complex case.
“This has been a difficult time for all those involved in this trial. We have faith and trust in the legal system and respect the verdict.
“I would like to pay tribute to the young woman who had the resolve and confidence to come forward and put her faith in police and the criminal justice process. In addition to this, she was named on social media sites during the trial contrary to her legal entitlement. Any breach of this entitlement is and will be investigated.
“A dedicated and specialised team of police officers and staff from the Rape Crime Unit led by Detective Chief Inspector Zoe McKee all worked diligently on this case. I want to thank these officers and staff for their hard work and commitment.
“I would also like to acknowledge and thank the Public Prosecution Service for their professionalism and expertise throughout.
“This case has provoked much comment and debate, while we respect today’s verdict it should not deter victims of serious sexual crime from contacting police.
“As police officers our role is to keep people safe. Anyone can be the victim of sexual crime regardless of age, background, status or gender.
“There is no room in society for tolerance of sexual crime. We understand how difficult it can be for someone to report a rape, but let me assure you today that if you choose to speak to police, you will be listened to, respected, treated sensitively, have your report thoroughly investigated, and you will be signposted to support services such as Nexus and Victim Support among others.
“We will continue to work hard to improve outcomes for offences of rape and sexual assault working in collaboration with the Public Prosecution Service and other partners. Our message is clear, please continue to report.”