Man not guilty of party rape

A MAN accused of raping a Shoreham woman as she slept at a New Year’s Eve party has been cleared by a jury

Mark Rickwood, 26, of Leighton Avenue, Worthing, had denied two counts of rape, dating back to January 1, 2013, throughout his trial at Chichester Crown Court.

After an hour and 45 minutes of deliberation on Friday, the jury of six men and six women returned unanimous not guilty verdicts for both charges,

The public gallery erupted in cheers and claps after the foreman returned the jury’s verdicts.

Closing the case earlier in the afternoon, Beverley Cherrill, defending, said: “Remember his demeanour when he was accused.

“He was pacing up and down, confused and unable to believe it.

“Are you sure that she is right and he is wrong?”

The allegation came after Rickwood had been on a night out in Brighton, before returning to an address in Worthing.

Partygoers, including Rickwood and the woman, had been drinking and taking cocaine during the celebrations.

The woman, a 24-year-old from Shoreham, had retired to an upstairs bedroom at around 6am and was later joined by Rickwood.

She claimed to have been awoken to the defendant raping her but Rickwood had always maintained it was consensual.