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  1. ITV Report

Paul Gascoigne: It's been a "year of hell"

Paul Gascoigne has said recent a recent sexual assault allegation has made it a 'year of hell' Credit: PA Images

Former north east footballer Paul Gascoigne has described his sexual assault allegation as a "year of hell."

The 52-year-old - who played for Newcastle, Middlesbrough and other clubs - was cleared of sexual assault on Thursday after a four-day trial at Teesside Crown Court.

He was also cleared of the alternative count of assault by beating.

'Gazza' had been accused of forcefully and sloppily kissing a stranger while he was drunk on a York to Durham train in August 2018.

He told the Sunday Mirror: "All I was doing was sticking up for the girl.

I gave the girl a peck. I didn't mean anything sexual, I just heard what was said to her and wanted to help. If it was anyone else this would never have gone to court.

This is the hardest thing I've ever been through. It's been a year of hell.

– Paul Gascoigne

Gascoigne also told the paper that he had worked hard to stay sober during the process.

He said: "In the last six months I've not touched a drop."

After he was cleared of the accusations the former England star said he was looking forward to getting on with his life.

He smiled and stood beside his solicitor, Imogen Cox, as she read out a statement on his behalf.

She read: "To have a sexual allegation for over 12 months has been tough.

I am so glad I was finally able to put over my side of the story and that the jury came to the correct verdict.

– Statement read on behalf of Paul Gascoigne

Michelle Heeley QC, defending, had argued that when Gascoigne kissed the stranger, there was no sexual intent.

She said the former player kissed a woman who was not expecting it and did not like it, but that did not make him a sex offender.

She said the kiss lasted two or three seconds, on a packed train, and was not preceded by any "lecherous comment", touching or grouping.