Rugby rape trial jury sent out to decide verdicts

By Mark Simpson

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Stuart Olding (left) and Paddy Jackson both deny raping the same woman in June 2016

The jury in the trial of two Ulster rugby players accused of rape have gone home after more than two hours of deliberations.

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding are accused of raping the same woman in Mr Jackson's house, in the early hours of 28 June 2016.

They both deny the charges.

The judge finished summing up on Tuesday morning, in week nine of the trial, sending the jury of eight men and three women out to deliberate.

They will resume on Wednesday morning at 10am.

The judge also reminded jurors not to discuss the trial with family or friends.

She also told them: "Do not look at the press. Do not look at social media. Do not look at Twitter."

From Court 12: BBC News NI's Mark Simpson

It is 58 days since the trial began at the end of January.

The 12-person jury which started hearing the case was later reduced to 11 after one juror took ill.

In total, 30 witnesses gave evidence, including 10 police officers, the four defendants, the alleged victim and the taxi driver who drove her home on the night in question.

The court sat on week days, but to try to make up for lost time, there was one Saturday sitting.

In total, the court has sat on 41 days, but some hearings have been taken up with legal arguments, in the absence of the jury.

On the second week of the trial, the jury was taken to see the layout of Paddy Jackson's house.

All the other proceedings have taken place in Court 12 at Laganside courts complex.

On most days, the 100-seat public gallery has been full.

The judge told the jury that, at this stage: "The only verdict I can accept is a unanimous verdict."

She said that although members of the jury may have heard about a "majority" decision, she told them: "Just put that out of your minds for now."

She told the 11-person jury that none of the defendants had convictions or had been in trouble with the police previously.

The judge warned the jury not to "leap to a conclusion" that because they had been drinking alcohol and were drunk on the night in question that they were "prepared to engage in non-consensual sex".

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Blane McIlroy denies one charge of exposure

On Monday, she told the jury not to assume that because the alleged victim was drunk that she wanted to engage in sexual activity.

The judge said the case should be decided on the evidence presented in court, and nothing else.

The jury is made up of eight men and three women.

Before sending them out, the judge thanked the jury.

She said: "Thank you all sincerely for stepping out of your own lives and coming here to give us your time."

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Rory Harrison denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information from the police

The jury began their deliberations at 12:40.

The jurors will also decide on verdicts for Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison, who face charges over the same alleged incident.

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

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

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.