Revealed: What Jackson, Olding rape trial jury wasn't told during case
Warning: These reports contain details which some readers might find upsetting
Naomi Long allegedly risked collapsing the rape trial of rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding with a tweet she sent just days before the jury was sent out to consider its verdicts, it has emerged.
Proceedings were dramatically halted on the 40th day of the trial to review the impact of comments made online by the Alliance leader after Mr Olding's barrister said they risked prejudicing proceedings - and called for the jury to be discharged.
Details of the East Belfast MLA's online post is one of a number of revelations that can now be made public after reporting restrictions imposed by Judge Patricia Smyth were lifted yesterday following a media challenge, two weeks after the Ireland internationals and two of their friends were cleared of all charges against them.
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Mr Jackson (26) and teammate Mr Olding (25) were unanimously acquitted of rape by a jury of eight men and three women. Mr Jackson was found not guilty of a further charge of sexual assault.
Blane McIlroy (26) was also acquitted of exposure, while a fourth man, Rory Harrison (25), was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.
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Following yesterday's decision by the judge - which lawyers for the four men involved did not object to - other details which can now been reported include:
- Jurors were not told about photos of additional blood on the sheets of Mr Jackson's bed, with the rugby player's barrister saying he had "no intention of saying where this blood came from".
- Mr Harrison sent a pornographic video to Mr Olding the day after the incident at Mr Jackson's south Belfast home in June 2016.
- BBC rugby pundit Jim Neilly, as well as former Ulster star Ruan Pienaar and MMA fighter Leah McCourt, were mentioned alongside Ulster and Ireland captain Rory Best as potential character witnesses for Mr Jackson.
- Semen belonging to Mr Olding was found by forensic scientists on the crotch area of the young woman's jeans. A charge of vaginal rape was dropped against Mr Olding before Christmas. His barrister Frank O'Donoghue QC argued that if the jury was told where the semen had been found on the woman's jeans, it might create an "unfair suspicion" in the minds of jurors.
- Defence barristers objected to the judge's tone of voice in her legal direction to the jury the day before the panel was sent out for deliberations.
At a brief hearing at Belfast Crown Court yesterday, Judge Smyth said: "The only order that I need to make is that the prohibitions are now discharged.
"I make that order forthwith.
"The other prohibitions will fall away by statute."
A number of media outlets had challenged the reporting restrictions which barred publication of any legal argument or applications made in the absence of the jury.
Such restrictions usually fall away when a trial concludes, because the risk of prejudicing a jury is no longer an issue in the case.
But when the high-profile trial concluded two weeks ago, Judge Smyth said they would remain in place.
Representing a number of Press and broadcast news organisations, Gerry Simpson QC said: "Our application is that there is no longer any prohibition in reporting any matter which occurred in open court."
Frank O'Donoghue QC, representing Mr Olding, said: "The defendants are all now in a position to consent to the application."
Solicitor Pat Kelly, representing Mr McIlroy, added: "We are not opposing."
Judge Smyth added: "Everyone is in agreement that the application should be lifted."
Meanwhile, restrictions preventing the identity of some of witnesses linked to the complainant remain in place. Judge Smyth thanked counsel and said "that really is the end of the proceedings".