COMEDIAN Ken Dodd walked free from Liverpool Crown Court yesterday

after being acquitted on all eight charges in his tax fraud trial.

Cheers broke out in the public gallery as the verdicts were announced

at the end of the 23-day trial. Mr Dodd reeled from side to side,

clutched the rail of the dock, looked upwards, then turned to the jury

and said: ''Thank-you.''

As the foreman delivered the last of the three remaining verdicts of

not guilty, the 61-year-old Ken Dodd gasped, smiled broadly, and

embraced his solicitor.

The courtroom erupted, people in the public gallery leapt to their

feet waving their arms in the air and there was an outburst of cheering.

Mr Dodd's fiancee Anne Jones collapsed into the arms of a friend,

weeping with joy. Police handed a glass of water to Miss Jones, a former

Bluebell dancer who shares the comedian's home in Thomas Lane, Knotty

Ash, Liverpool.

Then Mr Dodd appeared to break down in the dock, struggling to hold

back tears. He stepped shakily from the dock and was congratulated by

some of the public.

Earlier the jury had returned verdicts of not guilty on the five other


Mr George Carman, QC, who defended Mr Dodd, asked Mr Justice

Waterhouse for the defendant to be discharged. When he left the dock Mr

Dodd stood in the courtroom looking confused. He fought back tears as he

was congratulated by people in the public gallery. But he was only able

to mutter: ''Thank-you, thank-you''.

He owed the Inland Revenue #825,000, and has already handed it over in

the form of cash or IOUs.

The Revenue, however, could still go to the civil courts to extract

penalties for negligence in not paying his tax -- and the final bill

could mean he is a millionaire no more.

Yesterday's scenes were the climax to a lengthy trial which has seen

long queues of people waiting to watch the spectacle at Court No 1 on

the fifth floor of the Crown Court buildings.

When Mr Dodd was giving evidence, up to 150 people were being turned

away every day by court officials and police.

Four of the charges related to cheating the Inland Revenue. The court

heard that at one time the comedian had #336,000 cash hidden in three of

his homes. And the jury was told how Mr Dodd would make ''cash and

carry'' flights to the Isle of Man and Jersey to deposit the cash in 20

accounts without telling the Inland Revenue. Mr Dodd claimed he did not

disclose these off-shore assets because he believed they were not liable

to United Kingdom tax.

Four other charges related to false accounting in respect of four

one-night shows at two hotels and a restaurant. The prosecution alleged

that Mr Dodd took most of his fee in cash so that it would not go

through the books. The comedian told the court this cash was to pay

supporting acts at the shows.

Mr Dodd denied all the allegations.

The jurors had spent Thursday night at a hotel after failing to reach

a verdict. The Judge told them not to carry on their deliberations at

the hotel, but to do it when they returned to the jury room yesterday.

After the case, estimated by a court official to have cost #1m, a

spokesman for the Inland Revenue said: ''It is the Inland Revenue's

policy to prosecute people when, after they have made what they said was

a full disclosure, it appears that they have in fact concealed further

income or assets.

''This is the case whether or not they have later agreed to pay the

outstanding tax.'' The spokesman continued: ''It was only after

extensive inquiries had been made and Mr Dodd had signed certificates of

full disclosure that he revealed his bank accounts in the Isle of Man

and Jersey.

''These contained substantial sums of money. There had been a large

scale loss of tax. The decision of the Board of Inland Revenue to

prosecute was consistent with its policy on false certificates of full


''It was agreed by the defence that the Revenue acted responsibly in

bringing the prosecution. There was never any issue about the

certificates being incomplete and inaccurate; the issue for the jury

concerned Mr Dodd's honesty and it is upon that issue that they have

returned their verdicts.''

Pandemonium broke out on the court steps when Ken Dodd emerged. He

immediately fell back on his experience as a comedian, bringing the

crowds who waited to greet him to roars of laughter.

It took Mr Dodd two attempts to make headway through the hundreds of

people thronging the square in front of the building, and jostling to

get near him to offer their congratulations. Someone opened a bottle of

champagne which sprayed over Mr Dodd and his police escort and the party

was forced back into court until officers restored calm.

It was obvious Mr Dodd was overwhelmed by the reception as he watched

police form a cordon, linking arms to keep the crowd back. He then

stepped into a small space which had been let for him, to tell his fans

he would be holding a special celebration show for Merseyside charities

in Liverpool.

Above the noise and clamour of cheering, Mr Dodd said he wanted to

thank all his legal team who had helped him through the ordeal. ''Thank

God it's all over, and thank-you to all the thousands of people in

Liverpool and Merseyside and from all over the country who said prayers

for me and sent me their good wishes,'' he said.

Brushing his hands through his hair in typical Doddy-style, he added:

''God bless you all, thank-you very much.''

He also thanked his fiancee Anne for her support, and his counsel, Mr

Carman, who stood beside him on the steps of the courthouse. ''Well done

George,'' he said. Then he said: ''All I want to do now is to put it all

behind me and get back to work. Does anybody know where I can get a

drink tonight?''

Finally, he toasted the crowd with a mug of champagne before being

hustled by police to his waiting car and driven away.

Later, the comedian disclosed he had been ready to give up

showbusiness if the jury had found against him. He said on Sky News:

''When your life is at stake -- that's what was at stake -- I don't

think if anything had gone terribly wrong I could ever have appeared in

public again.

''Showbusiness is my life. I had to try to prove my honesty. I had to

say, all right, so I'm only a human being, but I'm not dishonest. I

never tried to be dishonest.''

The comedian went on: ''I know in my heart of hearts that I am an

honest man. I have tried to do my very best for showbusiness and

Merseyside, and I've always tried to present an honest family show. I

know I'm an untidy person. I shall do my best to be tidier from now


He added: ''I only ever wanted to be a comedian. I only ever wanted to

entertain the public, so I shall try on going to do that.''

Mr Dodd told Sky: ''I think in the last five years I haven't had a

happy day, and the last 18 months have been sheer torture.'' He said of

the court case: ''You have to strip yourself naked in public and that

was very, very hard.''

He said thousands of letters of support from fans had helped him cope

with the stress.