Canadian radio star Jian Ghomeshi acquitted of sexual assault

A shirtless protester is detained by police after an Ontario judge found Ghomeshi not guilty.
A shirtless protester is detained by police after an Ontario judge found Ghomeshi not guilty.PHOTO: REUTERS
Jian Ghomeshi (centre) arrives for his first day of court alongside his lawyer Marie Henein (right), in Toronto, Feb 1, 2016.
Jian Ghomeshi (centre) arrives for his first day of court alongside his lawyer Marie Henein (right), in Toronto, Feb 1, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

MONTREAL (AFP) - A former Canadian radio star has been acquitted of all charges of sexual assault on Thursday during a trial in which three women accused him of beating them during sex.

The allegations against syndicated radio host Jian Ghomeshi led to one of the country's most high-profile trials, prompting a debate about how the justice system addresses sexual assault.

Judge William Horkins concluded the eight-day trial saying the plaintiffs had been "less than full and frank and forthcoming" in their statements to police, the court and media.

"The evidence fails to prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt," he said in his verdict.

The 48-year-old radio host had pleaded not guilty to four counts of sexual assault and one count of of overcoming resistance by choking dating back to 2002 and 2003.

He faced a possible sentence of life in prison.

Dozens of protesters gathered in front of the Toronto court chanting, "We believe the victims!" after the verdict was issued.

The charges were laid in November 2014 after at least a dozen women came forward with accusations Ghomeshi strangled them, punched them or slammed them against walls.

Ghomeshi argued that his acts were consensual rough sex of the kind found in erotic novels such as the best-seller Fifty Shades Of Grey.

Before he was fired by Canadian public broadcaster CBC over the scandal, his top-rated arts magazine radio show "Q" was heard across Canada and in more than 180 cities in the United States.

Ghomeshi will appear in court again in June for a second trial on a single count of sexual assault dating from an alleged incident of workplace harassment in 2008.