A Banbridge man cleared in court last week on a string of charges has spoken of his nine-month nightmare after being accused of sexual offences against a local woman.
Roy Ringland, of Beechlands, who maintained his innocence throughout the ordeal, rejecting early legal advice to enter a guilty plea, stood accused of trespass with intent to commit a sexual offence, sexual touching without consent, indecent exposure and assaulting police.
On Wednesday last week, ending a five-day trial at Newry Crown Court, a jury rapidly acquitted Mr Ringland on all four charges.
“It was as if all the air had just been knocked out of me,” he said. “By the fourth verdict I was floating.”
Eager to get back to work and pick up the reins of his life, the 26 year-old was speaking out, he said, to impress his innocence on those people who didn’t know him personally and among whom his reputation had been damaged.
“I’m not saying I’m a model citizen but I’ve been innocent of this from the start,” he said, “and anyone who knew me, my friends and family and colleagues, believed me and stuck by me through the worst time of my life.
“They were a cornerstone, a rock, and they helped me get through it. My mum and dad and brother were there for me every day.
“I’m very thankful for their support and the support of my employers but I just want everyone else to know of my innocence.”
Though he and his family admit to being shocked that the case against him made it to court and troubled by what they believed to be a widespread presumption of guilt, Roy insists he has no axe to grind with police.
“I couldn’t believe it when I heard what I was accused of,” he said. “I was so angry. “I couldn’t make any sense of it.
“But I have nothing against the police, in any way. The police were doing their job.
“I didn’t sleep a wink during the trial but I had a fair trial. Now I just want to move on and get back to work.”
What Roy calls his “nightmare” began on February 16 this year when he went in search of a house party; the intervening period of around nine months, before his trial, was for him and his family a trial in itself, he said.
“I can’t really describe how it felt,” he added, “going to sign my bail every week, walking down into town, passing people who didn’t know me and wondering what they were thinking.
“There were mixed emotions waiting for the trial, just wanting it over and done with on the one hand, but knowing your life was literally in someone else’s hands.
“Those 12 people on the jury decided my future and there was such relief that these 12 people I didn’t know found me not guilty.” it was like being a child at Christmas. It’s good to be out the other end of it.”
Roy’s father Nigel, meanwhile, said the experience had put massive stress on the whole family.
“We knew from the word go that Roy was innocent and we just had to keep insisting on that,” he said.