Northern Ireland

Rugby rape trial: Prosecution case 'critically flawed'

Paddy Jackson Stuart Olding Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding both deny rape

A defence barrister in the rape trial of rugby player, Paddy Jackson has said the prosecution case is "critically flawed".

Brendan Kelly QC, representing Mr Jackson, said: "You decide where the truth lies.

"Consistencies are the hallmark of truth. Liars deviate," he added.

Paddy Jackson and fellow rugby player Stuart Olding are accused of raping the same woman in Mr Jackson's house in June 2016.

The defence lawyer told the jury to look at the facts of the case.

"This is not a court of morals, nor will you try this case on any emotion or sympathy.

"You may all have daughters, you may all be fathers. That is not what this case is about."

The defence barrister said at the heart of the case was the issue of consent.

Need for certainty

Mr Kelly said: "Drunken consent is still consent. Regret has no bearing on consent".

He told the jury they needed to be sure of their verdict: "Not 'I think so', or 'I suspect so' or even 'I guess so'.

"It is 'am I sure?'," he said. "That's what it boils down to."

He said that the evidence of the eyewitness who came briefly into the bedroom, Dara Florence, showed that no rape took place.

She had said that Mr Jackson asked her if she wanted to join in.

"Join in on a rape?" asked the defence barrister. "Is it really the Crown's case that half the bed would have been consenting and half wouldn't?"

Addressing the assertion by the alleged victim that she was "frozen with fear" in Paddy Jackson's bedroom, Mr Kelly said the woman had not been "frozen" but that it was a case of "engagement".

He questioned why she did not shout for help if she was being raped.

Morning-after pill

The jury visited the house earlier in the trial.

Mr Kelly said to the jury: "You know how noise travels in that house. You have seen it with your own eyes, yet not so much as a yell."

He then turned to the reason why the alleged victim sought a 'morning-after' pill following the night at Paddy Jackson's house.

Although Mr Jackson has said he engaged in sexual activity with the woman, he insisted it did not involve intercourse.

The defence barrister suggested the woman sought a pill the next day "to run the line of the classic rape victim".

'Male entitlement'

Earlier a prosecutor in the trial insisted it was not a case of a young woman seeking to "bag a celebrity".

Summing up on behalf of the prosecution on day 34 of the trial, Toby Hedworth QC said the case was instead "a throwback to the days of male entitlement".

He said nightclub CCTV from the night of the alleged rapes showed the woman at the centre of the case spending most of the time talking to a doctor, rather than rugby or football players.

"So much for trying to bag a celebrity," said Mr Hedworth.

He later added: "This isn't someone going after celebrities."

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Prosecution barrister Toby Hedworth said the case was "a throwback to the days of male entitlement".

They were among a group of four men and four women who went back to the house after a night out at Ollie's nightclub in Belfast.

The prosecution barrister told the 11-person jury on Thursday that to convict the accused they needed to be sure of their guilt.

"If you are sure, you must convict them," Mr Hedworth said.

The barrister told the jury to consider what the alleged victim had said during her evidence at the start of the trial, when she made it clear she did not want to have sex.

Hr Hedworth said: "The law of this land says a young woman is allowed to say 'no'."

He added: "The law does not say 'Oh well, you let me kiss you so I can force myself upon you. I, the male, shall decide how far this will go'.

"The law is not 'if my friends fancy joining in they can do as they and I please'."

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Blane McIlroy denies one charge of exposure

He added: "The world has moved on. Unfortunately the behaviour of some in our society has not.

"What happened in Patrick Jackson's bedroom in the early hours of June 28 represents, we say, a throwback to the days of male entitlement.

"We are not talking about 'MeToo' and gender politics. We are talking about the conduct of some males."

'Limits of conduct'

Mr Hedworth told the court some men are "not interested in the views of a young woman if their passions are up and they're full of drink".

He added: "I'm not talking about some agenda for radical feminism. I'm talking about proper relationships you have with each other. The sort of limits of conduct any man would expect for his daughter and sister."

Mr Hedworth pointed out that Mr Jackson told the court he had sexual activity with the woman, but not intercourse.

"Why is she so anxious to get the morning-after pill (the next day)?" asked the prosecution barrister.

Mr Hedworth insisted intercourse must have taken place.

He said the defence had portrayed the alleged victim as a "silly girl" who did something and then regretted it. The reality, he said, is that she was raped.

Mr Hedworth also pointed out that she admitted willingly kissing Mr Jackson earlier in the evening.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Rory Harrison took the alleged victim home on the night in question

He said that if her account of the evening was a "pack of lies" it posed the question "why would she say the initial activity was completely consensual?"

The prosecution accepted that there were "differences" and "inconsistencies" between what the alleged victim told a doctor and what she later told the police.

Mr Hedworth said complainants in this type of case may miss out parts of what happened or become confused for various reasons.

Such reasons could be "fear, anxiety, genuine confusion and even misplaced shame."

'The lads. Legends?'

At the end of his closing speech, the Mr Hedworth looked at the defendants in the dock, then looked back at the jury and said: "The lads. Legends? You decide."

This was a reference to a message in a Whatsapp group referring to them as "legends" the day after the party at Paddy Jackson's house.

The prosecution barrister told the jury to make up their minds about the four defendants by deciding on the facts of the case, nothing else.

He said: "Who cares where they went to school? Who cares about what junior team they played rugby with? Who cares which academy team they played for? Who cares about their level of success on a rugby field?

"It matters not whether a prince or pauper, you are just as capable of getting yourself extremely drunk and doing something, no doubt in the cold light of day when you realise the consequences, you come to regret."

He added: "A good school, a good rugby career, even an act of kindness at a bus station, counts for nothing when used to disguise the realities of what overbearing, drunk young men will do when their passions are raised."

He continued: "They knew she did not consent, but they didn't care."

Two other men have also been charged in connection with the case.

Blane McIlroy, 26, of Royal Lodge Road, Belfast, is charged with one count of exposure. He denies the charge.

Rory Harrison, 25, of Manse Road, Belfast is charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information. He denies the charges.

Mr Harrison took the alleged victim home on the night in question.

The prosecution barrister said initially he may have seemed like a "knight in shining armour", but in reality he was "one of the boys sticking together".

The trial continues.