Belfast Telegraph

Judge tells rugby rape trial jury: Only a unanimous verdict will be acceptable

By Claire O'Boyle

The jury in the rape trial of Ulster and Ireland rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding will continue to deliberate its verdicts today.

After more than 40 days of evidence and summing up, the panel of eight men and three women began deliberating at 12.40pm yesterday, before breaking at around 4pm for the day.

Judge Patricia Smyth told the panel that she would only accept, at that stage, a unanimous verdict on all counts.

"Members of the jury, the only verdict that I can accept is a unanimous verdict and that is a verdict in respect of which all 11 of you agree," she said.

The judge told the jury they must put anything they had heard about a "majority" verdict out of their minds "for now".

"If the time comes I can accept a majority verdict, I will ask you to come back to court and I will give you some final directions," she said.

Alongside Jackson (26) and Olding (25) in the dock were their friends Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison.

Jackson and Olding are accused of raping the same woman at a house party in June 2016. Jackson is further charged with one count of sexual assault.

McIlroy (26) faces one count of exposure, while Harrison (25) is accused of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

All four men have maintained their innocence of all charges throughout the course of the nine-week trial at Belfast Crown Court, which has seen more than 30 witnesses give evidence.

All the charges stem from events at Jackson's south Belfast home in the early hours of June 28, 2016 where the four defendants and four young women - including the complainant, who was aged 19 at the time - went for a party.

In the hours before the gathering, the four men and the woman at the centre of the case, had been drinking, Judge Smyth reminded the jury.

She said while all the defendants have told the court they were drunk, "it is important you do not leap to the conclusion that just because they had been drinking they were prepared to engage in non-consensual sex".

Addressing inconsistencies between the accounts given by the men in their police interviews and during the trial, the judge said the prosecution invited them to decide whether those inconsistencies amounted to a lie.

She later said: "People lie for all sorts of reasons", adding that lies can be borne out of "confusion" or "panic".

She added people might "lie out of a sense of misplaced loyalty to assist a co-defendant" and that unless the defendant set to benefit from the lie was "party to that lie" then the jury could not take it into account.

The judge also asked the jury to consider what motivation the complainant would have to lie.

"Members of the jury, the prosecution ask you to consider what does (the complainant) have to gain by making up these allegations? Why would she make these allegations unless she is telling the truth?" she said.

Judge Smyth reminded the jury of the defence's position that the complainant made up the false allegations "as she was petrified pictures of her engaged in group sex would enter the public area, and thereafter, she was pressured from friends to report the matter to police, meaning that she began a process from which there is no way back. That is for you to decide."

In the third and final day of her summing up to the jury, Judge Smyth recalled other parts of the evidence that have been presented through the course of the trial, including text and WhatsApp messages exchanged in the hours after the alleged incident, as well as expert testimony from doctors and a forensic scientist.

Judge Smyth said once again two doctors who appeared before the court had disagreed on some points, but added they had agreed injuries identified on the complainant - including a 1cm laceration to the inside of her vagina as well as bruising - could not confirm whether or not penetration was consensual.

The judge said the doctors, as well as a third medic they met to discuss the case, agreed the injury could have been caused by penetration of "a finger, fingers, a penis or another object".

A note of their meeting confirmed Dr Philip Lavery, who examined the woman at the Rowan Sexual Assault Referral Centre around 14 hours after the alleged attack, told the other doctors "a laceration could clearly be seen" and that the bleeding was "consistent with a vaginal laceration".

The jurors were asked to take into account the good characters of all four defendants and the judge reminded them of character evidence provided on behalf of Jackson and Harrison.

She said none of the men had been in trouble with police before and it should count in their favour all had taken to the stand to give evidence to the court.

She added a good character "cannot in itself provide a defence in a criminal charge."

The judge reminded the jury it was the duty of the prosecution counsel to prove each defendant guilty.

"The defendant does not have to prove anything," she said. "And in particular they do not have to prove that they are innocent."

Sending the jury out to consider their verdicts on day 41 of the trial, the judge expressed her gratitude for their part.

"Thank you all sincerely for stepping out of your own lives and coming here to give us your time," added Judge Smyth.

The jury deliberations will continue this morning.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph