Belfast Telegraph

Rugby rape trial verdict: Accused deserve to be anonymous, says man whose life was ruined by rape claim

By Leona O'Neill

A Londonderry man falsely accused of rape seven years ago says the law should be changed so that those in court on sex offences are not identified unless found guilty.

Gerard Doherty (30) was speaking after Ulster and Ireland rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were cleared of rape.

Mr Doherty said that despite a jury unanimously finding him not guilty in 2013, he still lives with the stigma of the accusation and has had to seek trauma counselling.

He was accused of rape by a woman in 2011 and endured two years of court appearances and having his name printed in the media. He said he lost friends, his reputation and his job.

Mr Doherty said despite the not guilty verdict, mud sticks. He added that the law should be changed to protect men until they are convicted.

"I was cleared of rape five years ago," he said.

"I went back to the hotel room with the woman to wait for others in our group who were on their way. I was drunk and actually passed out and woke up with her on top of me. I pushed her off me and she attacked me by punching and hitting me.

"I went to reception and asked them to call the police, and told them that I had been sexually assaulted. I waited in reception for police to arrive. When they came they spoke to the woman - she claimed I had raped her and they arrested me.

"I have never been in a police station in my life. I was stripped naked and police doctors were taking swabs and blood. It was humiliating and degrading and I was terrified."

Mr Doherty said he "went through 18 months of hell" in court.

"My parents and family had to go through that. My name was in the paper as well as my address. Any vigilante could have come and attacked our house," he said.

"The media and the courts should look at reporting restrictions on cases like this, until the cases are finished. If a man has done nothing wrong and he is there to defend his innocence in a court of law, then why should he be found guilty by the public before the court finds him guilty?

"And when the court finds you not guilty you have to spend your life justifying your innocence to people."

Mr Doherty said that the experience impacted greatly on his life.

"In my case I know people have it in their mind," he said.

"When you are applying for jobs or meeting new people or you are being introduced to people, you don't know what has been said about you.

"If you type my name into Google, the numerous news stories come up. If I walk down the street in my city I know someone will say to their friend: 'There's that man who was cleared of rape'. I've had people talking behind my back to make others aware that I was accused of rape.

"Those are the type of things I have to deal with in society, not to mention the trauma of it all. And it will be the same with the men who were accused in this rape case."

Mr Doherty said that men accused of rape should not have their names made public "due to the fact that you are innocent until proven guilty".

"In my case and in the case of the rape trial that has played out in the media over the last number of weeks, it seemed like we were guilty until proven innocent," he said.

"We could come out of court, cleared of all charges, but our lives are already in tatters.

"I'm not siding with people who rape women, not in the slightest. People who commit such acts should be jailed.

"What I am saying is men who are accused of rape, their names should not be put into a paper unless they are found guilty. You have to allow the courts to make the decision based on the evidence given."

He said every February, on the anniversary of the day he was cleared, the trauma of the case resurfaces.

"Every year that it comes up I think to myself: 'Why have I not got any justice? 'Why did I have to go through all that?' 'Why does the law favour the woman over the man?' I think there are not enough men speaking up about what the problems are."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph