A jury took only a few hours to find a pub landlord not guilty of rape and sexual assault against a young woman.
Benjamin Richard Iles, 31, licensee of The Marlbororough Arms in St John Street, Chester, pleaded not guilty to one rape charge and three charges of sexual assault which related to events alleged to have taken place on August 27, 2012.
Judge Andrew Hatton had earlier told the jury at Liverpool Crown Court that when they returned their verdicts they must find him not guilty on one of the sexual assault charges due to lack of evidence.
In the end, Iles was cleared on all counts and walked from court a free man on Friday after the jury of seven men and five women took just three hours to reach their decision.
Iles, of Martins Lane in Hargrave, was tearful as he left the court but declined to make any comment.
However, a family spokesman said: "We are delighted and relieved. It has been an horrendous 12 months."
Iles took the stand on Thursday where he explained that he and the 21-year-old complainant were ‘just friends’ but had enjoyed a flirtatious relationship.
On the night in question the woman was having a ‘leaving do’ from a bar job at another city centre pub by drinking at her old workplace and later had more drinks at Iles’ own pub.
Iles, who went into town at 1am to meet a friend for a drink, spotted the woman at the first bar.
He said: “You couldn’t miss her. She was dancing on the tables at the back.”
The complainant went up to him and his friend, who were sat on bar stools, and kissed them on their nipples.
“She said kiss me on the nipples. She arched her back to get us to do that. I started to pull her top back and thought against it. I thought it was a bit much and stopped.”
Iles, who said he was now in a serious relationship but wasn’t at the time, said the woman could have been drinking but was just being her normal ‘bubbly and bouncy’ self.
When the bar closed the party moved to The Marlbororough Arms where Iles said she was a ‘little bit more drunk’ and ‘losing her balance’ .
But he said she liked to be the ‘centre of attention’.
“When everybody was giving her attention she was fine and managed to run the whole length of the pub,” he added.
He acknowledged giving her ‘complimentary’ shots but said she was ‘pestering’ him for a drink at the time.
At about 7am the next day the alleged victim was helped into a taxi by the defendant and a female friend.
Both went with her to the friend’s house in the city centre.
Iles, who had been drinking but was not drunk, said once back there she continued ‘giggling’ and ‘running around’.
When it was decided to call it a day the complainant had got herself to bed in the friend’s room.
The defendant continued: “I got in bed next to her. I think I took my shirt off at that point.
“As soon as I lay down on the bed she put her leg over me. I turned to her and we both started kissing.”
Iles said this led to sex and stressed: “It was clear as day that it was consensual sex.”