A jury at Swindon Crown Court took just over an hour to clear teenage driver motorist Youcef Adjerid of dangerous driving yesterday.
The panel of seven women and five men also found the 18-year-old, of Harford Close, Chippenham, not guilty of the lesser alternative of careless driving.
The court earlier heard the former Sheldon School pupil, who had not been drinking, was giving friends a lift home from the party in Stanton St Quintin in December 2011 when he stopped to talk to schoolmates in fancy dress at the side of the road.
Adjerid is then said to have driven his Fiat Punto with first Sam Riley and then Mr Hearne, who had both been drinking, perched on the front of the vehicle.
Adjerid always insisted he had asked the drunk friends to get off his car and only moved the vehicle carefully at walking pace.
He said outside court: “I would like to thank my family for their support and my solicitor, who has been excellent. My year has been incredibly hard. It has been a very difficult time after what happened. This brings closure to a difficult chapter in my life and I just want to move on now.”
During the three-day trial the jury were not told that minutes after Toby Hearne, one of the lads who rode on his car, tragically died under the wheels of the vehicle.
An inquest last year reached a verdict of accidental death as Adjerid had no idea the friend was lying down in the road in an apparent prank.
The court heard Adjerid had not been at the party as he had been working late in Burger King at the Leigh Delamere service station. He and a colleague went to the village at midnight and picked up a friend.
As they drove away from the party they passed a group of teenagers they knew from school and stopped to chat to them. But Mr Riley told the court he ‘stupidly’ climbed on to the front of the car and Adjerid drove a few metres before stopping, causing him to fall to the road.
“Youcef went at around 5mph, then braked and I rolled off on to the floor,” he told the court. It just went to a stop slowly, not suddenly. I rolled off and then got up and then carried on.”
Shortly after he said Toby Hearne, who was dressed as a Christmas present, also got on to the bonnet, and again the car went about five to ten metres before stopping.
He told the court he, Toby and Joe Bodman were walking to Hal Bailey’s home, where they were staying the night, which was a ten minute walk from the party.
Though they had all been drinking he said only Toby and friend Scott Lang appeared quite drunk.
Under cross examination from Alex Daymond, defending, Mr Riley said he had not asked if he could climb on to the car.
“I didn’t really say anything. There was just a bit of laughing, joking, about. I was just being silly,” he said. “I did it out of my own free will, just messing about being stupid.”
And Scott Lang, a passenger in the car, said: “They were only on the bonnet for a couple of seconds and then fell off and had a laugh. I did not think anything of it. ”