Northern Ireland

Rugby Rape trial: Judge tells jury to set aside their views

Paddy Jackson at Belfast Crown Court Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Paddy Jackson denies one count of rape and one count of sexual assault

The jury in the rape trial involving two Ulster rugby players has been told to set aside any views they may have about sex and alcohol, and simply judge the case on the evidence.

Summing up, Judge Patricia Smyth said they should focus only on the facts.

"Emotion and prejudice - they have no part to play in your deliberations," she said.

The judge said any personal views they may have about sexual behaviour should be set aside.

She also told the jury that if they have strong views about drinking large amounts of alcohol, those opinions should also be set aside.

'No stereotype for a rapist or a victim of rape'

The judge said: "You must decide the case only on the evidence presented before you."

She added: "You are the sole judges of the facts. It is for you to decide what evidence you accept and what evidence you reject.

"You will form your own judgment."

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Stuart Olding denies a charge of rape

The jury is likely to be sent out early next week to consider their verdicts.

Paddy Jackson and fellow rugby player Stuart Olding are accused of raping the same woman in Mr Jackson's house, in the early hours of June 28th 2016. They both deny the charges against them.

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

Blane McIlroy, 26, of Royal Lodge Road, Belfast, denies one count of exposure, and Rory Harrison, 25, of Manse Road, Belfast, denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Judge Patricia Smyth she instructed jurors to "leave behind" any assumptions about stereotypes.

She said: "There is no stereotype for a rape, a rapist or a victim of rape."

"There is also no stereotype for how someone reacts if they are the victim of a sexual crime," she said.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Blane McIlroy denies one count of exposure.

Setting out the task facing the jury, judge Smyth told them to think carefully about their verdicts on each of the four men.

"If you are firmly convinced a defendant is guilty, then you must find him guilty.

"If you are not sure one way or the other, then you must find him not guilty.

"You must be sure of his guilt to before you find him guilty," she said.

'Emotion and prejudice have no part to play'

The judge emphasised repeatedly that the case should be assessed only on the evidence presented in court.

"The morals of any person involved in this trial are completely irrelevant," she said.

Adjourning the trial for the day, Judge Smyth said: "Do not read anything in the media. It is irrelevant.

"What matters is the evidence you have heard."

The trial has been adjourned until Monday.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Rory Harrison denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information

Earlier in the eight-week trial, the jury heard from 30 witnesses including the alleged victim and the four defendants.

Paddy Jackson, 26, from Belfast's Oakleigh Park, is charged with one count of rape and one count of sexual assault. He denies the charges.

Stuart Olding, 25, from Ardenlee Street, Belfast, is also charged with rape. He too denies the charge.

The 11-person jury has been told by the judge to wait until they hear all of the evidence in the case before coming to any final conclusions.