Ex-England star Gazza cleared of sexual assault

Gascoigne wept in the dock as the not guilty verdict was returned. — AFP pic
Gascoigne wept in the dock as the not guilty verdict was returned. — AFP pic

LONDON, Oct 17 — A British jury today cleared former England footballer Paul Gascoigne of sexual assault after he kissed a fellow train passenger.

But the panel was still considering an alternative charge of assault by beating.

Jurors at Teesside Crown Court in north-east England acquitted the 52-year-old ex-Newcastle United, Spurs and Lazio midfielder of the charge.

Gascoigne — widely known as “Gazza” — insisted when he gave evidence that he had no sexual intent. He wept in the dock as the not guilty verdict was returned.

Judge Peter Armstrong then told the jury he would accept a majority verdict on the lesser, alternative count.

Gascoigne had denied sexually assaulting the woman on a train last August, claiming he planted a “little peck” on the stranger to boost her confidence after she had been abused by another passenger.

His defence team on Tuesday showed jurors a file of photographs of him kissing other footballers and even Princess Diana to prove the encounter was not sexual.

But prosecutors alleged he had planted a “sloppy” drunken kiss on his accuser following an incident aboard the York to Newcastle train in which she was called “fat and ugly”.

Giving evidence earlier this week, Gascoigne said he was asked to pose for a photograph with two women, which the complainant took.

He then claimed someone shouted: “You don’t want a photo with her, she’s fat and ugly”.

He said he felt sorry for the woman as “I was called a fat bastard every time I played”.

He then told jurors that he sat next to the woman, telling her “take no notice of what they say” and “listen, you’re not fat and ugly, you are beautiful inside”.

Then he gave her “just a little peck”, he said.

The jury was shown four pages of photographs of Gascoigne platonically kissing, and being kissed, by celebrities and footballers including Ian Wright and Wayne Rooney.

Gascoigne dazzled during the 1990 World Cup in Italy, capturing the nation’s heart when he got booked in the semi-final against West Germany.

The yellow card would have ruled him out of the final had England progressed.

The former player has struggled with alcoholism since retiring from top-flight football, and admitted he had drunk three or four cans of beer on the train. — AFP

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