A SERVING soldier accused of sexually assaulting a female colleague is free to resume his Army career after he was cleared of the charge by a jury.

Glen Smith was alleged to have put his hand down the complainant's knickers and touched her when he and two friends were invited into the woman's home following a night out.

The 28-year-old had denied the offence which prosecutor Paul Reid said occurred after both had been on a leaving do for troops based at Catterick Garrison, in North Yorkshire, in July last year.

A jury at Teesside Crown Court took about 40 minutes to return a unanimous not guilty verdict. A previous trial on the same charge involving Mr Smith had been halted on a technicality, which subsequently led to a re-trial.

The complainant had told the court she was “angry, hysterical and confused” after she dozed off while sat next to Mr Smith on a large swivel chair and awoke to discover the defendant's hand down her pants.

The female soldier, who described herself as a “ladette” in police interviews, admitted she had been drunk earlier that evening, but aware of her surroundings.

She denied playing down the amount of alcohol she had consumed - which included cider, lager and 'jaegerbombs' - and not telling the truth in her account.

Mr Smith, who maintained the alleged assault had never happened, admitted he “fancied” the complainant and had a crush on her some five years previous, although he never took things any further.

The defendant's barrister Glenn Parsons said it was a “huge leap of faith” to suggest that he had molested the alleged victim.

Mr Parsons said his client had been full, frank and honest all the way through and said that without any independent verification of the woman's account the only proper verdict, based on the evidence, was not guilty.

The defendant, of Willow Glade, Huntington, near York, showed no emotion as the jury revealed its verdict and was told he was free to go by Judge Peter Bowers.

He and a representative from the Army left the court without making any comment.