Rugby ‘rape’ trial jurors told not to be influenced by ’emotions and prejudice’
The panel was also instructed to only consider evidence heard in court and to disregard media reports.
Emotion and prejudice have no part to play in deciding whether two Irish rugby internationals are guilty of rape, jurors at their trial have been told.
The panel of eight men and three woman were warned not to jump to conclusions about any criminal offence because they have heard evidence about sexual activity which they may find distasteful.
Judge Patricia Smyth said: “The morals of any person involved in this trial are completely irrelevant.
“You must not allow yourself to be influenced by any view.
“You must consider all the evidence and decide whether you are sure of the defendants’ guilt in each of the counts.”
The high-profile trial, which heard evidence from 30 different witnesses, has now completed its eighth week at Belfast Crown Court.
It is for you to decide what evidence you accept and what evidence you reject Judge Patricia Smyth
Paddy Jackson, 26, from Belfast’s Oakleigh Park, and his Ireland and Ulster team mate Stuart Olding, 25, from Ardenlee Street in the city, deny raping the same woman after a night out in Belfast on June 28 2016.
Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.
Two other men are also on trial charged with offences connected to the alleged attack.
Blane McIlroy, 26, from Royal Lodge Road in Belfast, denies exposure, while Rory Harrison, 25, from Manse Road in Belfast, has pleaded not guilty to perverting the course of justice and withholding information.
In her summation, which is expected to be complete on Monday, Judge Smyth urged jurors to consider all of the evidence dispassionately and clinically.
“Emotion and prejudice will have no part to play in your deliberations,” she said.
In her directions, the judge outlined salient facts relating to the evidence and explained the relevant points of law which apply to the case.
Directing her remarks towards the jury, Judge Smyth added: “You are the sole judges of the facts.
“It is for you to decide what evidence you accept and what evidence you reject.
“You will form your own judgment.
“You must decide the case only on the evidence presented before you.”
Jurors were also told to apply common sense and life experience in deciding their verdict.
And while allegations of sexual assault may arouse “wholly understandable” strong emotions, the 11-person panel was warned to “guard against” any prejudice or sympathy against or for anyone in the case.
Jurors were also told to “leave behind” any assumptions about stereotypes.
“There is no stereotype for a rape, a rapist or a victim of rape,” said the judge.
There is also no stereotype for how someone reacts if they are the victim of a sexual crime, the court heard.
“Any person who has been raped will have undergone trauma”, the judge noted, adding that court experience showed it was “impossible to predict” how someone who has suffered trauma would react either in the following days or when speaking about the matter publicly.
“There is no classic reaction,” said Judge Smyth.
“People react in different ways. Some people resist. Some people freeze. Others do not resist because of the circumstances.”
The judge also said everyone had their own ways of coping, with some showing displays of distress while others do not.
Jurors were urged not to assume that because someone was distressed they were telling the truth.
Warnings for jurors to ignore press and social media reports, in particular on Twitter, were also repeated.
Judge Smyth said: “This is a court of law and the whole purpose of a trial is to determine whether a criminal offence has been committed.”
Meanwhile, reference was also made to WhatsApp messages exchanged between the defendants and their friends hours after the alleged rape.
Jurors may have found them “offensive, crude or even derogatory of women”, the court was told.
“It is important that you understand that even if a man holds a derogatory attitude of women that’s not equivalent to the intention to have non-consensual sex,” said Judge Smyth.
It was also highlighted that text or social media messages were often “instantaneous” and their content may be “ill-judged” or “unrepresentative of the character of the sender”.
“You should also bear in mind that young men may brag about sexual matters which create an impression of sexual prowess but does not reflect reality,” added Judge Smyth.
The jury was invited to apply “common sense” when arriving at conclusions but were warned to “be careful” when deciding what, if any, weight to attach to the language and expressions used in the mobile communications involving all of the young people in the trial.
The judge later spoke about the burden of proof required to convict.
A distinction between being sure and certain was drawn.
“You must be firmly convinced or sure of the defendants’ guilt before you can find him guilty of any offence,” said Judge Smyth.
“But, you do not have to be certain of guilt.”
If jurors were “firmly convinced” then a guilty verdict must be returned but, if there was any doubt, or jurors were “not sure one way or the other” then a not guilty verdict must be reached.
Adjourning the trial for the day, Judge Smyth said: “Do not read anything in the media. It is irrelevant.
“What matters is the evidence you have heard.
“You are the only people who are going to understand what the law is you must take into account.”
The trial has been adjourned until Monday.