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  1. ITV Report

Footballer cleared of 'taking advantage' of 14-year-old

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A former League One footballer is looking forward to resuming a "very promising career" after he was cleared of sexually taking advantage of a 14-year-old girl.

Jack Tuohy, 20, maintained he believed the girl was aged 16 and denied her claim that she told him her real age.

A jury took just an hour to find the ex-Oldham Athletic midfielder not guilty of a string of sexual offences.

Tuohy wept in the dock as the verdicts were read out at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court and then embraced tearful family members after he was told he was free to go.

He had first met the "football-mad" complainant at a schools tournament hosted by the English Football League One club in 2015, the court was told.

The Crown alleged Tuohy went on to groom the youngster, who sent him a topless selfie photograph, through social media, before she performed a sex act on him in his Seat Ibiza car parked in a secluded location in Oldham.

But Tuohy's lawyers suggested it was the girl who initiated contact shortly after the tournament with the then 19-year-old and that she had known him for "some considerable time" and had "liked" photographs he had posted on social media.

Paul Hodgkinson, defending, told the court the Crown's portrayal of his client as a "manipulative" individual who preyed on a "starstruck" besotted schoolgirl was "nonsense".

He said Tuohy was "not some over-privileged, arrogant overpaid footballer driving around in his Lamborghini" but someone who had played football every spare second of his life and had been with Oldham Athletic since the age of 13.

He said he was not "a party animal" but someone on modest wages at Oldham, when the alleged offences were said to have taken place, who had to observe 10pm curfews.

Tuohy, who had attracted interest from the Republic of Ireland national team, was currently out of contract and playing for Shaw Lane, a semi-professional team in Barnsley, for #100 a week, the court heard.

Mr Hodgkinson put it to the complainant that her account that she told Tuohy in a conversation on Snapchat that she was 14 did not take place.

Giving evidence, the girl also denied she tried to make herself look older on her Facebook page.

Tuohy was cleared of two counts of engaging in sexual activity with a child, two counts of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and one count of meeting with a child following sexual grooming.

In a statement on behalf of the Tuohy family released after the verdicts, Jeremy Moore, of Carter Moore Solicitors, said:

Jack always maintained his innocence on these very serious allegations and is delighted that the jury came to the only sensible verdicts in this case.

His life has been on hold for 18 months during which time he has been under the most severe stress.

The family would now ask that they be left alone so that Jack can resume his very promising career.

The family would like to thank his legal team at Carter Moore Solicitors and Paul Hodgkinson of counsel for their amazing work in proving Jack's innocence.

– Tuohy family