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A young man has revealed how a 'childish' prank got him into deep water - so deep, in fact, that he feared serious jail time.
Alex Broke-Smith, 23, was accused of sexual assault by a venue manager, who claimed he 'aggressively' groped her bottom and crotch at a birthday party during a dare with his friends.
The former Charterhouse student told the Daily Mail: "When I heard the lies I knew I was in for a shit storm.
"The scariest part is you know you're telling the truth, but everyone is giving this person credence. You feel the police officer is looking at you thinking you're pretty low."
Alex told the court that he'd wanted to play 'a sort of childish game where you tap someone on the shoulder and no-one is there', to a woman he says rudely pushed in front of him to get to the bar.
"The motive was because she had been rude, I wanted to play a very childish practical joke," he explained - with other guests' statements confirming that the venue manager had been 'like a wound-up spring' throughout the evening.
"It was just a flick round with an open hand. I didn't see where it touched her. I couldn't have pinched anyone because my hand was at full reach.
"I was trying to make sure I wasn't seen so the woman would turn around to see who touched her."
He was eventually cleared by a jury at Wood Green Crown Court last week, following a three-day trial and 10 months of worrying that he'd be sent to jail.
But while he avoided jail time, it's not as if Alex got away unscathed. During the investigation and trial, he lost his job, a stone in weight and had his name dragged through the dirt and tainted.
Alex continued: "The worst part was hearing my accuser on the stand. The prosecution was trying to make out that we were these heckling hyenas, laughing at this poor woman as I sexually assaulted her.
"How can someone can stand up there and say such things - and do it so viciously? I don't want to rubbish this woman.
"Throughout the trial, we didn't attack her. I've tried to play this in a fair way and focus on the evidence."
Alex added: "People do think 'no smoke without fire'. Victims of sexual crimes are given anonymity, which I think is right, but I believe the accused should have anonymity too, until the verdict."
He added that he thinks anonymity would have saved both him and his family 'a lot of heartache'.
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