Rugby rape trial: Stuart Olding 'telling the truth...warts and all' says defence barrister
A barrister for Ireland and Ulster rugby player Stuart Olding told a jury that his client was "undoubtedly" telling the truth - "warts and all."
Now in its eighth week, the trial at Belfast Crown Court involving Olding, teammate Paddy Jackson and two other men is now in the stages of closing submissions.
Addressing the jury on behalf of his 25-year-old client, barrister Frank O'Donoghoe criticised both the police and Public Prosecution Service (PPS), and also suggested the evidence given by the woman at the centre of the claim was "totally unreliable."
Olding, from Ardenlee Street in Belfast, has been charged with and has denied forcing the complainant to perform oral sex on him in Jackson's Oakleigh Park bedroom after a night out in the VIP section of Ollie's.
Olding - who along with Jackson had just returned from a tour in South Africa with the Ireland rugby squad - claimed any sexual activity in the early hours of Tuesday June 28, 2016 was consensual.
It is the Crown's case that at some point whilst being raped from behind by Jackson, Olding entered the room and the woman was forced to perform oral sex on him. However, Olding claimed it was she who beckoned him into the room and that after he ejaculated, he left the room and slept in a separate room.
Pointing out that the crux of the case against Olding was consent, Mr O'Donoghoe told the jury there was absolutely no forensic evidence to support the woman's claim of forced oral rape.
Urging the jury to consider "very very carefully indeed" the complainant's credibility, Mr O'Donoghoe said: "Don't judge the book by the cover. Don't assume that because an account appears plausible, it must therefore be true."
The barrister reminded the jury that when she was asked whilst giving evidence how Olding's penis came to be in her mouth, she replied "I'm not entirely sure to be honest." Pointing out the now 21-year old "has no real memory of the central allegation of being forced to perform oral sex at the time", Mr O'Donoghoe told the jury there was a difference between "memory and an assumption."
Accusing the woman's account as being "utterly unreliable", Mr O'Donoghoe spoke of the different version of events she gave to a doctor, then to police - including the number of 'Ulster rugby players' she had been vaginally raped by.
Mr O'Donoghoe said: "If the police and Public Prosecution Service hadn't judged the book by the cover but had really studied the evidence in this case, including what Stuart Olding and other witnesses were saying, it would have been readily apparent to them that the complainant's evidence is completely unreliable."
Olding's barrister told the jury that on June 30, when the woman gave her interview, there were over a dozen questions - "no matter how uncomfortable" - that police should have asked her. These questions, according to Mr O'Donoghoe, should have including 'at what point did Stuart apply pressure to her head?' and 'why did she open her mouth?'
Other questions police should have asked, said Mr O'Donoghoe, was 'why didn't she scream?' Telling the jury there were "middle class girls downstairs, they were not going to tolerate a rape of anything else", the barrister asked "why did she not scream the house down?"
Olding's barrister branded the woman's evidence as "completely devoid of relevant and essential details ... it is of hopeless quality", adding the investigation into the allegations made against Olding was "at best poor and at worst virtually non-existent."
Turning to his client, Mr O'Donoghoe said that instead of approaching him first, investigating officers went to "Ravenhill, the home of his employers" to inform him to go to Musgrave Park.
Saying the whole process was a "rude awakening" for a young man who had never been in trouble with police, Mr O'Donoghoe revealed Olding was subjected to intrusive forensic examinations - none of which provided a forensic link to back up claims made by the woman.
Rejecting suggestions Olding was part of a cover-up conspiracy in the aftermath of the incident, the barrister also pointed out that much of the account given to police by Olding was actually backed up by the complainant when she gave evidence in court - including several interruptions during the act such as her taking her top off.
Telling the jury "it's hardly to his benefit to inform police he had 20 alcoholic drinks" prior to events in the bedroom, Mr O'Donoghoe said that during interview Olding "didn't contradict himself" but rather told the truth "warts and all."
Addressing the text and WhatsApp messages exchanged with friends in the hours after the incident, Mr O'Donoghoe accepted his client "started to act the big lad to brag to his friends on social media, using language I'm sure he's not proud of."
Saying these messages were private and on his own phone, Mr O'Donoghoe accepted that whilst the contents were "unattractive", there was nothing to suggest he had involved himself in non-consensual activity.
He told the jury of eight men and three women "Stuart Olding is innocent of this charge and I implore you to do your duty in this case and acquit."
Next to address the jury was Arthur Harvey QC, who represents Blane McIlroy. The 26-year-old, from Royal Lodge Road in Belfast, has been charged, and denies, exposing his genitals to the complainant.
Telling the jury that when arrested in June 2016 McIlroy was one semester short of completing a university degree in America, Mr Harvey branded the case as a "tragedy" for everyone involved.
Last week the jury was asked to consider whether or not the four men on trial were "liars or legends." However, Mr Harvey said this was not the case as "that does not answer the primary function you are here to fulfil ... and that is to determine whether or not Mr McIlroy and his co-defendants are guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the charges that they face."
In her evidence, the complainant said after she was attacked by Jackson and Olding, a naked McIlroy appeared in the room, and thrust his penis at her, demanding sex. This version was rejected by McIlroy, who said that after walking into the bedroom, the woman masturbated him then briefly performed oral sex on him, before asking if anyone had condoms.
McIlroy said Jackson was also in the room, and after leaving to look for condoms, when he came back to the bedroom the woman was getting dressed.
Mr Harvey said McIlroy's "life changed, and it changed irrevocably" 20 months ago when his client walked into a police station and gave an account of what happened.
Mr Harvey talked about the young woman who also attended the afterparty at Jackson's, and who opened the bedroom door and gave evidence that she saw a consensual threesome.
Regarding what he called "indiscrepancies" in the complainant's account - which the defence barrister attributed to alcohol consumption - Mr Harvey posed the question "What had she to gain from telling an untruth?".
He told the jury: "The simple thing, in literature and life, is that lies don't start off, necessarily, as a malicious intent to cause real damage to others. But lies build on lies. If you have a sense you are about to be shamed on a network to which your friends access, the first reaction is 'how do you deal with the shame?' Mostly, it's 'how do I save face?'
Mr Harvey said her reaction was one of being mortified of the consequences of having her image uploaded onto social media, as she feared the woman at the door had taken a picture of the scene in the bedroom.
Regarding the woman's allegations against McIlroy, Mr Harvey spoke of "significant and substantial differences" in accounts she gave to different people.
He said the first narrative was in a text message to a friend, where the complainant says '3rd guy coming and trying to join in, pushing his d**k at me.' Mr Harvey said she mentions McIlroy at the Brooke Clinic in Belfast as a '3rd person attempting to join in.'
She then told a medic at the Rowan Centre 'a man, third guy, came in and took his trousers down', which Mr Harvey said then graduated to telling police McIlroy 'appears at the door naked.'
Mr Harvey asked the jury to consider what McIlroy told police when he was interviewed on June 30. Saying his client's account must have "bewildered" officers, the QC asked whether or not it was possible that McIlroy "deliberately lied to his parents and deliberately manufactured an account he would then deliver to the police over the course of 12 interviews."
Saying the police "quite simply ... didn't know how to handle the truth", Mr Harvey also asked whether it was plausible that McIlroy was "prepared to sacrifice himself and face more serious charges" as well as putting his parents "through the wringer."
Mr Harvey said: "Mr McIlroy has told the truth. The truth is simply not compatible with the account of (the complainant) and (the complainant) as we know has a memory which is fragmented - she accepted that - and alcohol is a ready explanation for that."
He also asked the jury: "What rational, reasonable, sensible, intelligent individual would present themselves in a police station to give an account, before he knew what any of the allegations were, specifically against him?
"To incriminate himself to a potentially much more serious charge, quite simply, it does not bear examination."
Mr Harvey also mentioned the texts, and said that while the defendants were braggarts, they weren't rapists.
Telling the jury their verdict "will affect a young man for the rest of his life", Mr Harvey asked if they were sure beyond reasonable doubt of his guilt. Telling the members to "honour your oath" and come to a verdict based on the evidence, Mr Harvey said this verdict should be one of 'not guilty.'
The case will sit again tomorrow when Gavan Duffy QC, the barrister representing Rory Harrison (25) will be the fourth and and final defence barrister to address the jury.
From Manse Road in Belfast, Harrison has been charged with, and denies, perverting the course of justice and withholding information.
Belfast Telegraph Digital