Leslie breaks down in tears as sexual assault charges dismissed

TELEVISION presenter John Leslie broke down in tears yesterday as he spoke of his relief at being dramatically cleared of sex assault charges.

The former host of ITV's This Morning programme said he and his family "have been taken to hell and back" by a nightmare of allegations which were dismissed by his defence team as "shot with holes and contradictions".

Standing on the steps of London's Southwark Crown Court minutes after the Crown had dropped two charges accusing him of indecently assaulting a young actress, the 38-year-old said the decision had vindicated his repeated protestations of innocence. "We have always believed that justice would prevail and the truth would out," he said.

Flanked by his parents and girlfriend Abby Titmuss, he told a 60-strong pack of journalists, cameramen and photographers: "I am an innocent man. I have maintained my innocence throughout and today it has been justified. I said I would clear my name to the due legal process and in a court of law and today I have."

Clearly overcome with emotion, his voice then began to tremble and his eyes flooded with tears.

Struggling to maintain his composure, the 6ft 5in presenter went on: "You have no idea what this has done, what today means. For the last 10 months my family and I have been taken to hell and back."

Leslie, wearing a dark blue three-piece suit, white shirt and blue patterned tie, was then driven away in a people carrier with his girlfriend, parents and legal team.

His spokesman James Herring later said his client would be spending the day celebrating with his family, but would be considering possible civil claims for compensation yesterday.

Leslie arrived at court at 9.47am for what was listed as a plea and directions hearing and was immediately greeted by a battery of flash bulbs and camera lenses. Allowed to sit next to his girlfriend in the well of a packed court number one, he was invited to formally enter his not guilty pleas to the two counts he faced.

The charges related to the same woman, with each one accusing him of indecently assaulting her between May 25 and May 28, 1997. He then returned to his seat and listened intently as Richard Horwell QC, prosecuting, announced that the Crown was offering no evidence against him.

The barrister said Leslie's nightmare had begun last October with a claim by a "well-known" woman that she had been sexually assaulted years earlier a reference to TV host Ulrika Jonsson and a rape allegation she made in her autobiography.

However, while Ms Jonsson described her attacker as a high-profile television presenter, she never named him. Unfortunately, it was chat show host Matthew Wright who inadvertently blurted out Leslie's name as the alleged culprit during a live studio exchange on Channel 5.

Mr Horwell told the court the allegation from the "well-known" woman was followed by a host of sex attack claims by various other women pointing the finger at the TV presenter.

But instead of approaching the police they went to the press. After "careful scrutiny" during an "intensive investigation" the Crown Prosecution Service decided to limit their prosecution to just one complainant.

"It is the case that, since the defendant last appeared at court, new information has been brought to the attention of the police. That information could not have been foreseen," said Mr Horwell.

Judge George Bathurst-Norman, then told Leslie: "You, of course, are discharged ... without a single stain on your character."

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