Belfast Telegraph

Rape accused Jackson and Olding 'overbearing young men' who felt they 'could do as they want'

Alleged victim's fear she would be branded 'a stupid little girl' correct, he adds

by claire o'boyle

THE alleged rape of a woman by two Ulster Rugby stars was "a throwback to the days of male entitlement" involving "overbearing, drunk young men", a court has been told.

Prosecuting barrister Toby Hedworth told Belfast Crown Court that the trial was not about the 'MeToo' campaign or radical gender politics, but about the conduct of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding on the night the alleged victim said they raped her.

He said: "It matters not whether you're a prince or a pauper, you're just as capable of getting yourself extremely drunk and doing something that, no doubt, in the cold light of day... you might come to regret."

The prosecution claims Jackson (26) raped the woman at his Belfast home in June 2016 while his 25-year-old team-mate forced her to perform oral sex on him.

It alleges Jackson went on to further sexually assault her. Both men deny the charges.

Beside Jackson and Olding in the dock were Blane McIlroy (26), who is accused of exposure, and Rory Harrison (25), who is charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding evidence. Both men deny the charges.

"Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding - who cares where they went to school," Mr Hedworth (below) asked the court.

"Who cares about what junior team they played rugby for? Who cares which academy team they played for? Who cares for their success on a rugby field?"

He went on to say that what mattered was that "overbearing drunk young men... with their passions raised" used the woman, then 19 years old, for their own sexual gratification.

He added that "they knew she did not consent to what they were doing but they simply were not interested".

Mr Hedworth pressed the importance of consent at the heart of the case, and told the jury: "The law of this land says that a young woman is allowed to say no and any such no not only should be heeded, but it must be heeded.

"The law does not say, 'oh well, you let me kiss you so I can force myself upon you', and the male will decide how far things will go.

"The law is not, 'if she was up for something then I and my friends, if they fancy, can in effect do as I and they please'.

"The world has moved on. Unfortunately, the behaviour of some in our society has not.

"What happened in the bedroom of Patrick Jackson's house in the early hours of Tuesday June 28 represents, we say, a throwback to the days of male entitlement."

Closing his case for the prosecution in the seventh week of the high-profile trial, Mr Hedworth also told the eight men and three women of the jury that the alleged victim was not a "celebrity bagger", as the men's defence teams claimed she was after she met Northern Ireland footballers and Ulster Rugby players at Ollie's nightclub on June 27, 2016.

He reminded the court of the woman's evidence, which stated: "I'm not attracted to celebrities. I did not know who these people were."

The barrister also told the court the alleged victim, who first took to the witness stand six weeks ago, had been "spot on" in her predictions of how her allegations would be met - that she'd be called a "stupid little girl" and the accused would claim she had been "up for it".

"She said it would be my word against theirs and because there's more of them they'll have some fabricated story about me being some slut who was up for it," Mr Hedworth said.

"They wouldn't get done and they have the backing of Ulster Rugby. She'd be called a stupid little girl. Spot on, ladies and gentlemen. That is the stance they would take. Just a silly little girl who's done something and regretted it. It was exactly what she knew would happen."

Mr Hedworth also revisited the urgency expressed by the woman to get the morning after pill in the hours after the alleged rape took place, asking why - if the defendants' accounts were correct and no man had had sexual intercourse with her - she was be so desperate to get it.

He asked them to consider the 1cm tear to the wall of the alleged victim's vagina.

The lawyer also acknowledged "inconsistencies" in the student's early recollections of events, noting apparent omissions identified by the defence in her statement to a doctor at the Rowan Clinic - a sexual assault referral centre - in the hours after the incident.

"We invite you to consider what state this young woman must have been in on the evening of June 28," said Mr Hedworth.

"She has been up all the previous night. She has had the traumatic rape by two men. She's been to one clinic and now another. How straight is she likely to be thinking?"

Mr Hedworth told the jury to give "due consideration" to the irregularities out of fairness to the defendants, before adding: "The experience of the court has been that complainants in cases like this do not always get all the detail right. It can be for a number of reasons, ranging from fear or anxiety, genuine confusion or misplaced shame."

He went on to remind the court of evidence provided by defence witness Dr Janet Hall who said "in the aftermath of sexual assaults disclosure by complainants may be, in the beginning, partial or piecemeal" due to "feelings of guilt and shame" as well as feeling "inhibited" in front of friends or relatives as they provide their statements.

The prosecutor also spoke of Harrison's conduct in the aftermath of the incident.

Mr Hedworth claimed that rather than being a knight in shining armour who came to the woman's aid, he went on to be more concerned about impeding the police investigation and protecting his friends - even when he was aware the woman said that what happened with his friends was not consensual.

The prosecutor referred the jury to messages exchanged between the friends the day after the alleged attack, in which a man who wasn't at the party asked: "Why are we all such legends?". McIlroy had responded: "I know, it's ridiculous."

Mr Hedworth told the jury: "The lads, the legends - you decide." In conclusion, the lawyer told the jury to give careful consideration to the evidence and invited them, if they were sure, "to return the appropriate verdicts of guilty".

The trial continues.

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