A POLICE officer has been cleared of raping a woman after giving her a lift home.

PC Stuart Jenkins, aged 38, from Holcombe Brook, broke down in tears as a jury returned a unanimous not guilty verdict on Friday.

Speaking afterwards, he said: “Justice has prevailed.”

The packed public gallery, which was full of Mr Jenkins’ friends and family, clapped and cheered on hearing the jury’s decision.

Two members of the jury also wept as the foreman read out the verdict following the week-long trial at Preston Crown Court.

It had been alleged that neighbourhood policing officer Mr Jenkins had raped the woman in 2011, as she slept at her home.

But, after deliberating for less than 90 minutes, a jury found the defendant, of Springfield Road, not guilty of the allegation.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Jenkins, who had been suspended from the force, said he was eager to get back to being a police officer.

Through a Police Federation spokesman, Mr Jenkins said: “We are relieved it is all over.

“It has been an horrific 12 months and I am looking forward to getting on with my life and returning to work.”

A spokeswoman for Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said there would now be a review.

She said: “The professional standards team will review the case now the trial has come to an end and they will make a decision as to whether there will be any action.

“They will decide whether Mr Jenkins is going to return to work or whether there will be any misconduct proceedings.”

The court had previously been told by Mr Jenkins’s barrister Lisa Roberts that he was ‘well-regarded, well-respected and well-liked’ by friends and colleagues who knew him in his role as a neighbourhood police officer.

Miss Roberts had described her client’s accuser, who cannot be named for legal reasons, as a ‘clever and manipulative’ woman whose account was neither credible nor valid.

The woman insisted she reported the alleged attack last May after “a constant battle in my head” over whether the defendant had meant to sexually assault her.

But the court was told that two of her friends had come forward to give evidence of a false claim of a physical assault outside a nightclub. Another friend was also told that the alleged rape had occurred in a different place.