A MAN will remain in custody despite being cleared of hitting and sexually assaulting a woman.

The jury in the trial of John McHale at Teesside Crown Court took two hours to deliver not guilty verdicts in respect of charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and assault by penetration.

He smiled as the verdicts were announced, thanking the judge and jury, while his mother in the public gallery wept.

However, he was unable to leave the court a free man and was remanded back into custody. This was because his barrister, Katie Rafter, said he faced an entirely separate allegation of assault involving his brother-in-law.

The 40-year-old defendant, of Millfield Road, Fishburn, County Durham, had been accused of punching the alleged victim, grabbing hold of her hair and pushing her onto a sofa, and then putting his hand down her trousers.

The woman said she had been left in excruciating pain, having been winded by the punch, and felt horrible after the alleged sex assault.

Mr McHale insisted in his evidence he did not hit or touch the complainant in the fashion suggested and described their encounter on November 24 last year as a case of “six and two threes”.