Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland man faces court over 'naming rugby rape trial woman on internet'

By Darwin Templeton

A man is facing court after he allegedly identified the woman who was at the centre of the rugby rape trial in a social media post.

Prosecutors have confirmed that the suspect is to be charged with breaching the anonymity of the complainant in the high-profile case involving Ireland and Ulster players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, and two others.

The accused man - who has not been named - is due before a Magistrates Court later in the year.

If convicted he faces a fine of up to £5,000.

Under the Sexual Offences Amendment Act, complainants in rape cases are granted anonymity for life, and it is illegal to identify them.

It has also emerged that the Public Prosecution Service has decided not to prosecute a second person who was investigated by the PSNI over social media posts linked to the case.

In March Mr Jackson and Mr Olding were cleared of rape after a trial that lasted 42 days.

They had been accused of sexually assaulting a woman at Mr Jackson's home after a night out in Belfast in June 2016.

The other men - Blane McIlroy, who was accused of exposure, and Rory Harrison, who was charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information - were also found not guilty.

The trial of the prominent sports stars at Belfast Crown Court generated intense debate on social media.

At several points, lawyers drew Judge Patricia Smyth's attention to online comments that they felt endangered the defendants' right to a fair trial.

It emerged after the verdict that a defence lawyer had asked for the case to be stopped over a tweet sent by Alliance leader Naomi Long, but the application was rejected.

Before discharging the jury, Judge Smyth told them: "This has probably been the most difficult trial that any jury in Northern Ireland has ever been asked to adjudicate on."

Following the case Mr Jackson's defence lawyer Joe McVeigh also highlighted the problems caused during the trial by commentary on social media.

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Rory Harrison

He said that several days had been lost due to the issues thrown up by online material and claimed that lawyers had been distracted by having to monitor online content, particularly during the last phase of the hearing.

In the wake of the trial retired Appeal Court judge Sir John Gillen was asked by the Criminal Justice Board to lead a major review into how serious sexual crimes are handled by the judicial system.

The wide-ranging investigation will examine the impact of social media on trials and whether further measures need to be taken to ensure the anonymity of the complainant.

Sir John will also look into arguments for defendants themselves to be granted anonymity and review issues around public attendance at trials.

He is expected to finish his report by January.

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Stuart Olding leaves court on March 28, 2018 after the judgment

The PPS confirmed yesterday that it had decided "to prosecute one person in relation to an allegation of breaching the anonymity granted to a complainant in a high profile rape trial".

"After a careful consideration of all evidence, it has been decided to prosecute that person on one charge of breaching the lifetime ban on reporting the identity of an alleged victim," it said.

"A second suspect reported separately by police for allegedly breaching the same complainant's identity will not be prosecuted after it was concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove any offence had been committed.

"In taking these decisions, senior prosecutors considered evidence received from police in relation to social media posts which were alleged to have potentially identified a complainant involved in trial proceedings which ran at Belfast Crown Court from January to March 2018."

Belfast Telegraph

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