Darren Smalley was acquitted Friday in a high-profile sexual assault case involving gang rape allegations against members of a British naval hockey team.
Smalley, 38, was one of four British sailors accused of sexually assaulting a woman in April 2015. At the time of the alleged assault, Smalley, from Gosport, England, was in Halifax to play in a hockey tournament.
After his acquittal he stopped briefly to speak to media outside the courtroom. He was teary-eyed and looked exhausted, telling reporters the process has “taken its toll on me mentally and physically.”
“It’s a difficult day for all of the parties that have been before the court this morning,” said Smalley’s lawyer Ian Hutchison. “Darren is thankful for the impartiality and fairness exercised by the court. And he’s thankful for the support of his family and his friends.”
Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Patrick Duncan mentioned inconsistencies between the complaint and witnesses testimonies when delivering his verdict.
“It is impossible to know where the truth begins and ends in this matter,” Duncan said.
Crown prosecutor Eric Taylor said they will study the decision before deciding whether or not to appeal.
“In this case we felt the inconsistencies were minor and the complainant’s credibility was clear throughout, but the court found differently,” Taylor told reporters outside court.
The complainant, whose name is protected by a publication ban, left the courtroom in tears and did not speak with reporters.
The trial focused on the night of April 9, 2015. The complainant alleged she and a friend met with members of the Royal Navy sailors hockey team for a double date. She testified she fell asleep in a naval barracks. When she woke up, she was being assaulted by several men. She could not identify the men, however Smalley’s DNA was found on her.
Smalley’s acquittal may not mark the end of the court proceedings. Charges against two other men, Craig Stoner, and Joshua Finbow, were dropped. Charges have been stayed against Simon Radford because he fell ill and was hospitalized.
A decision on whether to move forward with the Radford case must be made by mid-October.