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By ESPN Staff

Liverpool striker Bellamy cleared of assault

Premiership footballer Craig Bellamy was today cleared of assaulting two women at a nightclub.

The 27-year-old Wales and Liverpool striker was accused of common assault of Sophie Palmer and Holly Smith at the No 10 nightclub in Cardiff city centre in February this year.

District Judge John Charles told Bellamy at Cardiff Magistrates Court: 'It was inconsistent to convict you with the serious discrepancies in the prosecution case and the two charges are dismissed.'

Bellamy's friend, Franklin Lynch, 52, of Glan-Y-Mor, Barry, South Wales, who was accused of assaulting Miss Smith, was also cleared.

Bellamy, of Menei Way, Rumney, Cardiff, denied making any physical contact with the two young women during the alleged incident in the early hours of February 5.

He told the court yesterday it was, in fact, him who had been assaulted when one of the women slapped his face.

Miss Palmer, who was 19, claimed Bellamy grabbed her around the throat and held her against a wall after they exchanged heated words in a corridor at the club. Miss Smith, who was 18, accused him of grabbing her by the wrist.

Bellamy told the court he was walking along the corridor when he caught Miss Palmer's eye and she asked what he was looking at.

He said he replied: 'Not you. If I was looking at anyone it would be those two girls over there. They're far prettier than you.'

Bellamy added that Miss Palmer responded by slapping him across the face.

During today's closing speech lasting more than two hours, Mr Charles Rees accused Miss Palmer and Miss Smith of 'devious manoeuvring' during his cross-examination. He claimed they were fudging the evidence to fit the allegation.

He also said the prosecution's evidence was 'confusing to say the least'.

He added: 'We simply say that the evidence is a shambles as far as the prosecution is concerned and you should acquit Mr Bellamy of the charges.'

Geraint Richards, for Lynch, also urged the district judge to acquit his client because of a lack of evidence.

He said: 'All the prosecution witnesses have been discredited and I would invite you to come to the conclusion to acquit Mr Lynch.'

Following the verdict Mr Bellamy's solicitor Matthew de Maid said: 'Quite naturally Craig is really pleased that the allegations he has faced for some months has been thrown out. He has always said they were false allegations and that has proved to be the case.

'His defence was that he didn't do anything wrong, he didn't lay a finger on anybody and for his troubles he was slapped in the face and this has been believed by the court.'

Mr de Maid added: 'It begs the question, why and for whose benefit this case was brought against Mr Bellamy. If it hadn't been Mr Bellamy I doubt very much whether this case would have ever been brought to court. I think it's an example of the case proceeding in spite of the evidence.

'My opinion is that it was brought mainly because of who Mr Bellamy is. The police and the Crown Prosecution Service probably felt obliged to proceed with the case in order not to be accused of favouritism because of who he is.'

Before Mr Bellamy left the court he stopped to sign an autograph for a cleaner and a Liverpool football strip for one of his fans.

As he left the court he declined to comment.

Earlier the judge told the court: 'Cases of this nature are never easy to resolve.

'There are bound to be discrepancies between witnesses and it is extremely difficult for anybody to remember anything that happened, particularly in sequence.'

He said in reaching his verdict he paid particular attention to the medical evidence in the case which suggested the marks on Miss Palmer's neck were not consistent with the attack she alleged Mr Bellamy to have carried out on her.

He said he was also mindful of the various discrepancies in the accounts of the complainants over what they alleged occurred in the corridor of the nightclub between them and Mr Bellamy.

After the case finished, the judge fined Dane James for an offence under section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 which prohibits the taking of pictures in court.

James, 19, of Louisa Place, Butetown, Cardiff, pleaded guilty to the charge and was subsequently fined £100 and had his mobile phone confiscated after an image of Bellamy sitting in the dock was found on it.