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Protest held at Belfast courts after rugby rape trial verdict


Scores of people gathered in Belfast to join with protests in Derry, Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick over the handling of the high-profile rape trial of rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.

On Wednesday the two Ulster players, along with friends Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison were acquitted of all the charges against them following a nine-week trial.

The "unprecedented" case drew widespread media coverage and online discussion on social networks. Defence lawyer for Paddy Jackson, Joe McVeigh described some of the online activity as "toxic" saying the trial had been frustrated by comments from some "public servants who should have known better".

On Thursday demonstrations were held across Ireland following the verdict.

Organisers said the event was "in response to the impact" of the trial and how it has been handled by the criminal justice system and how it had been reported.

There were calls for the overhaul of the justice system including a blanket ban on reporting of trials until the jury had come to a verdict and said more should be done to ease the distress of those who make allegations of sexual assault and rape.

Organisers said efforts should be made not to deter those who say they had been assaulted or raped from making a complaint to police.

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Following the verdict in the trial on Wednesday police said reports of serious sexual assaults including rape had increased over the past nine weeks.

The demonstration also heard calls for the support services for victims and survivors of rape and sexual abuse to be properly funded.

During the event in Belfast the crowd heard from a number of speakers including the Green party MLA Clare Bailey.

She said there needed to be better education and more done to support victims of serious sexual assault.

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