'It was a case which was properly brought, properly defended and properly tried,' Detective Inspector Martin Parsons, who headed the inquiry, said. A spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service said that, in the circumstances: 'We had no choice.'
The boy - the youngest person to face trial in Britain accused of rape - smiled with relief as magistrates at Newport, Isle of Wight, returned their verdict. The boy who, like the girl, was 12 at the time of the alleged offence last November, denied raping her at Cowes, but did not give evidence.
The girl had tearfully given evidence to the youth court through a video link in a side-room. She said the boy had told her he wanted to have sex and then forced himself upon her. The court was told the boy was 4ft 11in and the girl 5ft 3in.
Richard Price, for the boy, told the court: 'The forensic evidence does not support an assertion of sexual intercourse, let alone without the girl's consent. It would be difficult for the smaller boy to hold down the larger girl with her trousers down, and it would have required a degree of co-operation and not resistance on her part.'
Mr Price had accused the girl of being a willing partner who panicked when another boy found her after the incident. Other witnesses said they heard the sound of giggling from the sandpit.
The girl maintained she was raped 'and it hurt'. She told police she did not like the boy much. But she went to the field with him 'because I try to make friends with people and I trust people. Well, I used to. . . '
The boy was the youngest person to be tried for rape since the 1989 Children's Act was changed last September, allowing youngsters under 14 to be accused.
Before then it was assumed boys under 14 were incapable of intercourse but this was overturned when MPs supported the Tory backbencher Jerry Hayes's Sexual Offences Bill, giving police power to prosecute boys as young as 10.
Det Insp Parsons said afterwards that police would not be reluctant to bring similar prosecutions. 'The defence quite properly raised reasonable doubt, but this was always an emotive issue and I think the Crown Prosecution Service quite rightly put it before the court.'
A CPS spokeswoman said: 'We had a case involving a young girl, alleging that she had been raped. There was the forensic and medical evidence to support her and, at that stage, a boy denying that he had been with the girl . . . We had no choice but to proceed with the case and put the matter to the court.'
The girl's father said: 'We are all numbed and shocked at the verdict, but we are doing our best to come to terms with it.'
The boy's solicitor, John Matthews, said in a statement: 'The family would like to say that they are relieved that their ordeal has come to an end. They very much regret that two young children have had to go through such a process.'
Isle of Wight education and social services authorities said after the trial that the boy now attended another school on the island, while the girl was still at the same school.
It was hoped that 'all efforts can be made to enable both of these young people to move on, into their teenage years and adolescence, without too negative an impact from what will have been a distressing experience for both of them'.Reuse content