Belfast Telegraph

Rugby rape trial: Rory Harrison accused of being 'delegated' to look after distressed woman

By Ashleigh McDonald

A friend of Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson was today accused of being "delegated" to look after a distressed young woman and get her home.

The suggestion was made to Rory Harrison, who was also accused of displaying "misguided loyalty" to his friends, instead of a "traumatised" young woman.

Harrison (25), from Manse Road in Belfast, has been charged with perverting the course of justice, and of withholding information, in the wake of an alleged sex attack on a student.

The complainant claims she was raped by Jackson (26) in the bedroom of his Oakleigh Park home whilst being forced to perform oral sex on 24-year old Stuart Olding. Jackson has also been charged with sexually assaulting her, with the pair denying all charges against them.

As the trial entered its seventh week - and on the final day of evidence - Harrison spent his second day in the witness box, where he denied a series of accusations made by Crown barrister Toby Hedworth QC.

The Belfast man was accused of, and denied, conducting a "verbal fencing match" whilst giving a witness statement to police in June 2016 and of "circling the wagon" with his friends when he became aware the woman had been upset due to non-consensual sexual activity.

The jury has already heard around 5am on Tuesday June 28, 2016 Harrison accompanied the complainant home in a taxi. It's her version of events that after being raped by Jackson and Olding, and after Blane McIlroy exposing his penis to her, she fled Jackson's house in a state of distress.

She also made the case that as she fled, Harrison ran after her. Her version of events was rejected by Harrison.

Harrison said that at the after-party in Jackson's, he noticed the woman was "fixated" and "staring at" Jackson and that he saw her following Jackson up the stairs. He said the next time he saw her was at the top of the stairs, as he went to say goodbye to his friends before he left.

After the then 19-year old went to police, Jackson, Olding and McIlroy were all arrested on June 30, 2016, while Harrison was treated as a witness and provided a statement on that date. However, as the investigation proceeded, Harrison was arrested in October 2016 and charged with two offences.

Under cross-examination by Mr Hedworth QC, Harrison was asked about a text he sent to the woman minutes after leaving her home in a taxi which said 'keep your chin up, you wonderful young woman.'

Asked what he meant by that, Harrison said she was upset and he wanted to make her feel better - with Mr Hedworth saying these were "just weasel words."

When Harrison was questioned about the statement he made to police on June 30, he was asked why he didn't show police his phone. He said he was never asked, adding "if they asked to see it I would have shown them."

As Mr Hedworth turned his attention to the events in question, he was asked why he thought the young woman was so upset in the early hours. Harrison said he thought perhaps Jackson had "rejected her", adding he assumed "if something was properly wrong she would have told me."

He confirmed he took her home, but said he had no recollection of asked what had made her upset.

When it was suggested to Harrison that after the woman was subjected to an ordeal in Jackson's bedroom "you were delegated to get her home and look after her", the defendant replied "that's not right.

When asked about a text she sent to him that morning which said what happened with his friends had been non-consensual, and whether this concerned him, Harrison said "the more I thought about it, I didn't believe it."

Regarding the witness statement he made to police, Harrison was asked why he didn't tell police about it. He was asked "did you not think that was an extremely significant piece of information?" to which he replied "I was never asked if there was contact between myself and (the complainant) the next day, or if there had been any contact by text. If I had asked, I would have answered that fully."

Mr Hedworth also quizzed Harrison about lunch he had with his three co-accused on the afternoon of June 28th. He confirmed he didn't tell Jackson or Olding about the 'non-consensual' text he received from the woman. He repeated an assertion that as he didn't believe it, he didn't want to worry Jackson.

Suggesting that at this lunch "the wagons got circled", Mr Hedworth said "a general decision was taken as to what to say" and a "party line had to be adhered to." This was rejected by Harrison who said "no, there was no party line."

Mr Hedworth told Harrison "that witness statement you gave to police ... was part of the party line, because regrettably however good an upbringing you have had, or as good a family you undoubtedly came from, sadly you put loyalty to your friends first." Harrison answered "I disagree with you."

It was also put to Harrison this was "misguided loyalty" where instead he should have been "looking after the young woman that you knew full well had been traumatised by what had been done to her upstairs in that house." He replied "that is also incorrect."

At hearing

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