Belfast taxi driver cleared of raping 17-year-old passenger

A taxi driver has been cleared of raping a passenger after it emerged the Crown was offering “no further evidence” against him.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 3:24 pm

William Harbinson, from the Highfield area of Belfast, was charged with three offences arising from an incident with a female passenger in September 2017.

Following the acquittal, he said: “I’m an innocent man and now I’m going to spend Christmas with my family.”

A trial at Belfast Crown Court commenced on Monday, when a prosecuting barrister set out the Crown’s case against the 57-year-old.

Mr Harbinson, who at the time was a taxi driver, picked up the 17-year-old complainant after she was ejected from a Belfast nightclub in the early hours of September 2, 2017.

It was the Crown’s case that after offering her a beer as he took her home, Mr Harbinson then forced himself on her in the back seat of the taxi.

When Mr Harbinson was subsequently arrested and interviewed about her allegation, he told police they had sex but claimed all sexual activity was consensual.

As the hearing was due to enter its second day, prosecuting barrister Rick Weir QC told the jury of seven men and five women: “I am indicating on behalf of the Crown we are intending to offer no further evidence.”

Judge Stephen Fowler QC then addressed the jury and said that as a result of the Crown’s decision not to proceed with the trial, they were to return a verdict of ‘not guilty by direction of the judge’ on the three charges levelled against Mr Harbinson – namely rape and two counts of sexual assault.

The judge then thanked and dismissed the jury and told Mr Harbinson “you are free to go”.