Belfast Telegraph

Rugby rape trial verdicts: PPS defends taking rugby players to trial and praises 'courage' of complainant

The Public Prosecution Service has defended its decision to take to trial a case against rugby players Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding, Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison.

All four were cleared of all the charges against them in court on Wednesday.

The police and Public Prosecution Service were heavily criticised for their handling of the case by Paddy Jackson's defence lawyer outside the court.

Marianne O’Kane, PPS assistant director and head of the unit which handles serious cases including all sexual offences, said it was right the case went to trial.

"The evidence received in this case was subjected to a very thorough and careful examination by a team of experienced lawyers including Senior Counsel, before we concluded that the Test for Prosecution was met, in line with our Code for Prosecutors," she said.

"This meant that there was both sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction and it was in the public interest to prosecute.

"This case was properly brought before the Courts and overcame a number of legal challenges.  It was ultimately right that the matter was placed before a jury to make their determination."

The lawyer thanked the judge, jury, witnesses and the PPS legal team for "approaching this case with great care".

"Most importantly, I want to take a moment to recognise the courage and determination of the complainant and her family throughout these proceedings.

"There has been extensive media coverage of this case, sometimes at a level which has been unprecedented in recent times. I hope that this has helped the public to better understand the criminal justice system and the trial process. I also hope that there will be a continuing conversation about societal attitudes in relation to sexual offences.

"Rape and other sexual assaults are devastating crimes and from our close, daily contact with women and men who have been victims of sexual violence, we understand the impact upon them and their families.

"We work very closely with both police and victims’ organisations such as Nexus and Victim Support to make sure that victims will have all the support they need throughout the criminal justice process.

"Finally, I want to take this opportunity to say to anyone who has been a victim of any offence, please come forward and be assured that you will be treated with sensitivity and respect throughout."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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