Three Syrian Men Cleared Over Newcastle Park Sex Assault Claims
13 October 2016, 15:26
Three young Syrian men have been cleared of sexually assaulting two schoolgirls in a park in Newcastle.
Omar Badreddin, 18, came to the UK from Jordan as part of a commitment by David Cameron to allow 20,000 Syrian refugees to live in Britain. His family were being filmed by a BBC Newsnight team when the events unfolded. His older brother died in Syria and he left school at 14 to provide for his family.
He was cleared of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old in Leazes Park, Newcastle, in May.
Married Mohammed Alfrouh, 20, was cleared of three counts of sexual assault.
He was accused of kissing one girl in the park on consecutive nights, and of also molesting the girl Mr Badreddin was accused of kissing behind a pavilion.
Mohammed Allakkoud, 18, whose father died in Syria and who was living in Newcastle with his extended family, was accused by the girl of holding her mouth and nose while the others attacked her. He was cleared of a single charge of sexual assault.
The defendants, in a large group of Syrians picnicking in the park, had met the girls on Monday, May 9, and there was an agreement to see them the next day, the court heard.
The girls smiled and posed for selfies on the Tuesday and the girl who made the allegation about the pavilion was said to have typed her number in Mr Badreddin's phone before leading him off for a kiss. He insisted he did not know she was 14.
During the two week trial defence barristers applied for the case to be thrown out, it can now be reported.
They said that there were inconsistencies in the complainants' evidence to police, to the court and in cross-examination.
One of the girls was a "proven liar'', the defence teams claimed, who had fabricated serious allegations about her home life prior to the sex assault claims.
Judge Edward Bindloss decided that the question of the complainants' reliability was best left to the jury and allowed the trial to continue.
Further problems with the high-profile case arose during the evidence Mr Alfrouh gave, when it became apparent major errors had been made by the interpreter during his key interview with police after he was arrested.
The case, in which there were three defence barristers and two barristers for the Crown as well as two Arabic-speaking interpreters, was delayed by one and a half days while all the defendants' interviews with police were checked and re-translated.
One serious mistake arose when Mr Alfrouh described seeing Mr Badreddin and the girl kissing behind the pavilion.
He was also translated as telling police he "tried to'' kiss the girl who was with Mr Badreddin, but this interpretation was changed to "wanted to'' kiss her, and that he stopped himself.
Later the judge was to tell the jury the cause of the delays was that the police interviews needed to be re-interpreted because errors had been made - "some of them minor, some of them major''.
In her closing speech, barrister Sue Hirst, for Mr Alfrouh said:
"In this country we pride ourselves on the way things are done.
"We pride ourselves on things like democracy, on justice.
"We see other countries around the world on the news and see how so-called justice is meted out.
"It is easy to take for granted the right to a fair trial.
"It does happen, people of good character coming before the courts.
"Imagine if you were abroad, when you were arrested, finding yourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, being hauled off to a police station in a country where you don't speak the language.
"How terrifying would that be? That's the situation Alfrouh and the other defendants found themselves in.''
As the forewoman returned the not guilty verdicts on the three, the young defendants burst into tears.
After they left the dock, they wept and hugged each other and family members in the corridor outside.
There was controversy about the case with Northumbria Police facing media criticism that the force had not released details about the alleged attacks.
At the time, Northumbria Police said there had been no need for a witness appeal as the suspects were quickly arrested "and there was no danger to the wider public''.
"Had we pro-actively released details of the incident then it could have frustrated our investigation.''
September 26th 2016
Two girls, both aged 14, were allegedly sexually assaulted in Leazes Park on May 10th.
Omar Badreddin, 18, Mohammed Alfrouh, 20, and Mohammad Allakkoud, 18, all denied the charges at a hearing in June.
Reports suggest at least one of the group was resettled in the UK by the Government, as part of the plan to help Syrian refugees.
A 17-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is also accused of sexual assault. He's due to appear at North Tyneside Magistrates' Court on September 29th.