Belfast Telegraph

Rugby rape trial: Harrison denies using 'weasel words' and having misplaced loyalty toward Jackson and Olding

By Cate McCurry

THE man accused of covering up the alleged rape of a woman by Ulster rugby stars Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding has denied being "delegated" to get the upset woman home.

Rory Harrison was accused of using "weasel words" when comforting the young woman as he took her home in a taxi soon after the alleged rape.

Harrison (25), from Manse Road in Belfast, denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information following the alleged sex attack at Jackson's house in June 2016.

He was giving evidence for the second day as the trial entered its seventh week at Belfast Crown Court.

The alleged victim, who was aged 19 at the time, claims she was raped by Jackson (26), from Oakleigh Park, while being forced to perform oral sex on Olding (25) from Ardenlee Street, both in Belfast.

Jackson faces a further charge of sexual assault.

Both men deny all charges against them.

The prosecution claim that Harrison and his co-accused "concocted" stories about what they did that night to cover the alleged sex attack.

Under cross-examination by prosecution lawyer Toby Hedworth QC, Harrison was accused of displaying "misplaced loyalty" to his friends instead of the alleged victim.

"Regrettably, however good an upbringing you have had or good a family you have undoubtedly come from, sadly you put loyalty to your friends first," Mr Hedworth said.

Sitting in the witness box, Harrison replied: "I disagree with you."

Mr Hedworth added that his "misplaced loyalty" led him not to look after the young woman "who you knew full well had been traumatised by what had been done to her" in Jackson's bedroom.

The lawyer put it to Harrison that his instinct should have been to look after the young woman.

The jury has previously heard how Harrison, Olding, Jackson and their friend Blane McIlroy, who denies a charge of exposing himself, went to Jackson's home for a house party with four young women, including the alleged victim, after a night out in Belfast.

The court heard that shortly after the alleged sex attack at around 5am, Harrison shared a taxi with the complainant.

After dropping her home, Harrison sent her a text message saying: "Keep the chin up you wonderful young woman."

Mr Hedworth accused Harrison of using "just weasel words" when he called the woman "a wonderful young woman".

Harrison told the court that he was trying to make her feel better.

He did this because she had been upset because he thought "she was rejected by Jackson".

Mr Hedworth also suggested that Harrison was "delegated to get her home and look after her" after she was allegedly subjected to the sex attack. This, again was rejected by the witness.

Mr Hedworth said: "Would you regard yourself as an honourable, decent man?"

Mr Harrison replied: "Yes, I like to think so."

"Is (the complainant) a wonderful young woman?" Mr Hedworth asked.

"I don't know," Harrison said.

In his first police interview in which he was interviewed as a witness, Harrison was asked about what he recalled of her appearance.

He said that she had brunette hair and he had noticed she was "fixated" with Jackson.

Mr Hedworth suggested to Harrison that this was his way of "trying to row your friend Paddy Jackson out of this matter."

Harrison rejected that.

The jury previously heard how, hours after the alleged sex attack, the woman sent Harrison a text message saying what happened with his friends was not consensual and that's why she was "so upset".

When asked about his reaction to the text, Harrison told the court: "The more I thought about it, I didn't believe it."

He was also questioned over why he didn't disclose the message to police investigating the incident.

Harrison told the court he was never asked by officers if there was any contact between him and the young woman after the alleged incident.

"If I had, I would have answered fully," he said.

Mr Hedworth also suggested that when the four accused met for lunch at Soul Food in the aftermath of the alleged incident, the "wagons got circled" and a "decision" was made about what to say and "what party line" was to be taken.

"No that's not correct," Harrison replied.

The trial continues.

Belfast Telegraph

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