A FATHER unanimously cleared of rape now hopes he and his family can move on with their lives after being put through a ‘horrible’ three years.

The jury of 11 men and one woman returned a unanimous not guilty verdict, acquitting Richard Hirschfield of a rape he had been accused of committing more than 20 years ago. Mr Hirschfield, who always maintained his innocence, told a jury the sex in a Worcester doorway was consensual.

The panel cleared him after around half an hour of deliberations at Worcester Crown Court this afternoon.

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The woman, now in her late 30s, claimed she was raped at 16 on a fire escape at the Midland Shires Farmers building in The Butts in Worcester in July 1998 after drinks with the defendant in the Paul Pry pub. The woman appeared as a witness, declining the use of a screen. She first reported the matter on July 29, 1998, the day she confronted Mr Hirschfield in a Worcester cafe when he was with his then wife. She described officers as far from sympathetic in 1998 but returned to police with the allegation and was video interviewed about it on February 16, 2018. However, it was 43-year-old Mr Hirschfield the jury believed as he told them the rape never happened. Speaking after he was cleared, Mr Hirschfield said: “It has been a horrible three years for me and my family, including my two children. I have always been innocent with regard to this and I have been cleared by a full jury, unanimously.

“It’s going to take a while to get my life back on track. I have suffered anxiety and depression over the years with this going on. My family now want to put it behind us and move on with our lives.

“The law should be changed. It’s too easy for people to make up accusations and put innocent people and their names through the papers.”

Mr Hirschfield was represented throughout the four day trial by Martin Butterworth who reminded the jury there was no independent evidence that the rape happened. Mr Butterworth said of the allegation the woman made: “It wasn’t true when she said it then and it isn’t true when she says it now.”

He said she had ‘distorted what actually happened either deliberately or through wishful thinking or attention-seeking or simple delusion’.

“Her complaint, made after she had seen this man with his wife, had been false” said Mr Butterworth.