AN unemployed gardener, acquitted of sexually assaulting a teenage girl, has said his life became a "living hell" after the allegations had been made against him.
Eamon Power (35) said that having his name published before the outcome of the trial was "atrocious and completely unfair".
Fighting back tears, Mr Power, of Bresheen, Kilmallock, Co Limerick, revealed how he has been taunted on the streets of his home town and called a "scumbag" by people who had read media coverage of his trial.
At Limerick Circuit Court, he had denied three counts of sexual assault on a teenage girl at locations in Co Limerick on dates in 2007 and 2008.
Speaking outside the court yesterday after a jury had returned a unanimous not guilty verdict on all three charges, Mr Power – who was accompanied throughout the trial by a large group of family members – said: "I am after going through an awful lot in the last three years. My life was hell. I couldn't get a job. I could do nothing.
"It isn't fair. I am an innocent man. My name was on the paper, which it shouldn't have been. I think it is completely wrong.
"The amount of people that saw me in the papers. It has been so disruptive on my life."
In evidence to the court, the alleged victim had claimed that when she was 15 Power unzipped her pants after he had driven her to an industrial estate in Co Limerick under the pretext of giving her a driving lesson in October 2008. She had also claimed that he tried to touch her breast on two occasions when she was 14.
Speaking after her brother's acquittal, Nuala Power, one of his six siblings, said the allegations had a huge impact on the extended family.
"These were terrible, terrible allegations. It's atrocious," she said. "Once a sexual allegation goes out, it's the lowest of the low of allegations and it's very, very hard to detach that from your name.
"Eamon had a job last summer for a few months. A few weeks later, his boss heard this was going on and said, 'I can't bring you into people's houses while this is going on'.
"Eamon is innocent and he needs to be entitled to get his life back on track."
Ms Power was also critical of the law which allowed her brother's name to be reported before the outcome of the trial was known.
"You can't jump the gun," she said. "We hope the people of Kilmallock will back him now. He is innocent. He needs to be able to live in his town and to have friends. He needs to be able to socialise in his town. Eamon did no wrong ever."