Belfast Telegraph

Rugby rape trial reporting curbs case to be heard next week

By Claire O'Boyle

A legal challenge to overturn reporting restrictions still in place more than a week after two Ulster Rugby players were cleared of rape will go before a judge next week.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said legal arguments should go before trial judge Patricia Smyth.

Addressing a preliminary hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice, Sir Declan said yesterday: "I direct that this matter be placed before Her Honour Judge Smyth at 1pm on Monday."

Reporting restrictions apply as standard through the course of legal proceedings, preventing journalists from publishing anything said in the absence of a jury. However, these normally fall away once a verdict is reached.

Several media organisations are working to get the ongoing restrictions - imposed by Judge Smyth after the unanimous not guilty verdicts were delivered last Wednesday - lifted. Gerry Simpson QC, representing the media, said news is of a "perishable quality", adding: "It is now a week since the trial ended and it will be another week until things are clarified."

It took a jury less than four hours to come to unanimous verdicts of not guilty for Paddy Jackson (26) and Stuart Olding (25), who had faced charges of rape. Jackson was acquitted of a further charge of sexual assault.

Two other men were found not guilty of lesser charges connected with the alleged incident in June 2016. Blane McIlroy (26) was acquitted of exposure, while Rory Harrison (25) was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Frank O'Donoghue QC, who represented Olding, said there was a "concern" that the not guilty verdicts could be undermined. He added: "On occasion it (reporting) has been anything but respectful of the verdict."

The case was adjourned until April 9.

Belfast Telegraph

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