A father-of-three who made a false statement to the police which resulted in an innocent man being charged with sexually assaulting a woman has been jailed for nine months.
Paul Gillespie (25), of Epworth Street in Londonderry, pleaded guilty at the city’s Crown Court to perverting the course of justice by making the false allegation in April 2009.
As a result of his false statement, a jury was empanelled to hear the case against the innocent man.
On the day of the trial on April 26 of this year, Gillespie contacted the police and made a second statement which was different to his original statement.
A prosecution barrister told Judge Piers Grant that on April 6, 2009, following a function in the City Hotel, Gillespie made a statement to the police which corroborated a statement of a woman who alleged she'd been sexually assaulted by a man.
Following Gillespie's statement the man was charged and sent for trial.
The barrister said as a result of Gillespie's second statement on the date of the trial, it was decided there was insufficient evidence to bring a successful prosecution.
“Credibility was such an issue that the prosecution could not proceed,” he said.
No evidence was offered and the jury was instructed to find the innocent man not guilty by direction.
When he was interviewed by the police about perverting the course of justice, Gillespie said he did not want to go into the witness box and commit perjury.
Defence counsel Seamus McNeill said Gillespie, who had a clear record, was motivated to make the false statement out of loyalty because the woman was a work colleague.
Mr McNeill said: “He then realised things had gotten out of hand and he now accepts his actions were despicable and dishonourable,” he said.
Jailing Gillespie, Judge Grant said that by his actions he and the woman who made the allegation had both “done a great disservice to women and undermines the protection that society and the courts seek to be in place”.
Judge Grant said: “An allegation of this nature is something everybody would fear. It would be their worst nightmare to have an allegation of sexual assault made which is supported by another person. It has to be recognised that in a small jurisdiction such as this, word gets out and reputations are seriously damaged."