Northern Ireland

Rugby rape trial juror's comments investigated

Blane McIlroy; Stuart Olding; Paddy Jackson; Rory Harrison Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Blane McIlroy, Stuart Olding, Paddy Jackson and Rory Harrison were all cleared of all charges

Comments posted online by a juror in the rugby rape trial have been referred to Northern Ireland's attorney general.

The remarks, first reported in The Irish Times, were made in an internet forum after the verdict on Wednesday.

All four accused were cleared of all the charges they faced after a nine-week trial.

The juror reportedly made the remarks in the comments section of an article about the acquittals in the trial.

A spokesman for Attorney General John Larkin's office confirmed that the matter had been referred to the Northern Ireland's senior law officer by Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan.

Mr Larkin is to investigate whether the comments represent a breach of contempt of court laws.

Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding, Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison were cleared of all charges on Wednesday.

The first comment appeared about eight hours after the jury delivered unanimous "not guilty" verdicts.

The juror made a series of comments describing the trial, as well as answering questions from other users.

The posts set out the reasons the jury came to its decision and defended the amount of time it took to reach a verdict.

'Seemed to be authentic'

Irish Times journalist Conor Gallagher said the comments were posted under a story about the verdict and purported to be from a juror in the case.

"They seemed to be fairly accurate, they seemed to know a lot about the case; at first read, they seemed to be authentic," he told BBC NI's Good Morning Ulster.

"So we got in touch with the Public Prosecution Service and asked them about it and they got back to us and said they'd referred the matter on to the office of the Lord Chief Justice in Northern Ireland.

"The Lord Chief Justice's office then told us they'd referred the matter on to the attorney general's office and to other relevant authorities."

Mr Gallagher said the attorney general's office got in touch with the juror and told them to take the comments down, which was then done.

He said the juror contacted the Irish Times on Thursday night and defended the comments.

"They [said they] didn't comment on anything related to the jury deliberations [and] therefore were not in breach of the [judge's] order," he said.

"They were very worried, they said they were in trouble, the Lord Chief Justice's representative asked them if they have a solicitor."

The juror told the Irish Times that when Judge Patricia Smyth discharged the jury, she told them to go about their daily life but not to reveal discussions that took place within the jury room.

When asked about the juror's comments, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said: "We are aware of comments made on a social media platform."

Complainant identified?

Meanwhile, the legal firm representing Mr Jackson is suing Irish senator Aodhán ó Ríordáin over a social media post related to the trial.

"We have issued pre-action libel correspondence against a named Senator in the Republic of Ireland," said Marie Hans, a senior associate with KRW LAW solicitors.

"The legal action relates to a tweet sent to a number of other persons before it was eventually taken down."

Advice to jurors

The website issues advice to people called up to serve on a jury during a trial.

"Don't discuss the trial with anyone until it's finished, except with other jury members in the deliberation room," it says.

"After the trial you mustn't talk about what happened in the deliberation room, even with family members. You can talk about what happened in the courtroom.

"Don't post comments about the trial on social media websites like Facebook or Twitter - even after the trial's finished.

"This is contempt of court and you can be fined or sent to prison."

It also emerged on Friday that two people have been questioned by police after allegedly revealing the identity of the complainant in the rape trial.

Complainants in rape trials in Ireland and the UK are entitled to anonymity, and it is an offence to publish their identity.

A PSNI spokesman said two people had been interviewed in relation to an offence under Section 5 of the UK's Sexual Offences Amendment Act 1992.

The spokesman said the investigation was ongoing and two files had been forwarded to the Public Prosecutions Service for consideration.

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