Strictly Come Dancing star Ricky Whittle has been cleared of deliberately knocking down a photographer.
The ex-Hollyoaks actor, who came second in the BBC’s dance show last year, walked free from court yesterday after being acquitted of dangerous driving.
He had been accused of deliberately driving his American Dodge pick-up truck at freelance photographer Stephen Farrell in the early hours of November 27, allegedly because he was irritated by Farrell’s attempts to get pictures of him with his former girlfriend, Hollyoaks actress Carley Stenson.
A jury at Liverpool Crown Court decided the star did not intentionally turn his wheel to knock Farrell down. The jury of seven women and five men took just an hour to acquit the actor.
Outside court Whittle said: “It’s been nine months of hell. I’m so glad it’s over.”
Asked if the case would damage his relationship with the media and photographers, he said: “I have never had a problem with the press before and I won’t in the future.”
Trouble began for the actor when he left a Hollyoaks party at Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios shortly before 1.30am on November 27 last year.
He had arranged to give a friend and Stenson a lift home.
It was three weeks after the pair had split up and, not wanting to fuel speculation about their relationship, they arranged to meet around the corner in Duke Street away from waiting paparazzi.
But a group of photographers and autograph hunters followed Stenson and her friend, Helen Splaine, round the corner.
CCTV footage showed Whittle reverse his left-hand drive truck 250 yards down Duke Street to the women. As they got into the car Farrell began taking photographs at the side of the car.
Whittle asked him not to, complaining that life “was shit as it is” and saying: “It’s cold and the girls are only in dresses, just leave us alone.”
Seconds later, after Farrell continued to photograph the group, Whittle revved the engine and drove off turning the car left into Farrell, who was knocked down.
Realising there had been some sort of collision, Stenson phoned a photographer friend who told her Farrell had called the police.
Farrell drove himself to hospital where he was treated for a sore hand and a sprained left knee.