Wednesday 18 July 2018

'A woman is entitled to say no and decide on sexual activity' - judge

Ireland and Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson leaving Belfast Crown Court. Photo: Mark Condren
Ireland and Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson leaving Belfast Crown Court. Photo: Mark Condren

Eimear Cotter

A woman who walked into rugby star Paddy Jackson's bedroom while he and his teammate Stuart Olding were allegedly raping a 19-year-old student has been described as a "key witness".

Judge Patricia Smyth gave her charge to the jury at Belfast Crown Court, setting out the different accounts of what allegedly happened in Mr Jackson's bedroom.

Mr Jackson (26) and Mr Olding (25) have denied raping the woman at a party on June 28, 2016. Mr Jackson also denies sexually assaulting her.

Blane McIlroy (26) has pleaded not guilty to exposure and Rory Harrison (25) has denied he perverted the course of justice and withheld information.

Pointing out how the complainant's account differed from the versions given by the accused, Judge Smyth told the jury it was its decision to determine where the truth lies.

Judge Smyth told the jury the issue was one of consent, and she asked it to "bear in mind" explanations of the law in relation to it.

Blane McIlroy at Belfast Crown Court. Photo: Mark Condren
Blane McIlroy at Belfast Crown Court. Photo: Mark Condren

The judge said it was the prosecution's case that the young woman was vaginally raped and digitally penetrated by Mr Jackson and orally raped by Mr Olding.

She said the woman's evidence was she was "frozen in fear" and it was only when Mr McIlroy walked into the room, naked and holding his penis, that she jumped up and ran out.

Judge Smyth said it was the defence case that the woman made a false allegation of rape because she regretted getting involved in consensual group sex and feared she may have been filmed.

The judge said the jury had to decide whether to believe any-one in the case who could not remember aspects of the night.

Stuart Olding at Belfast Crown Court. Photo: Mark Condren
Stuart Olding at Belfast Crown Court. Photo: Mark Condren

"You are entitled to consider whether their lapses of memory are genuine or simply a convenient excuse to avoid having to explain their behaviour," she said.

She said that just because the woman was drunk or flirting with Mr Jackson, it was "wrong to leap to conclusions" that she was "looking for, or was willing to have, sex".

"A woman is entitled to say 'no' and decide what sexual activity she wants, how far she is prepared to go and what she does not want to do," she said.

Judge Smyth slowly took the jury through Dara Florence's testimony, describing her as a "key witness".

Ms Florence gave evidence that when she walked into the room, she saw Mr Jackson penetrating the woman with his penis and the woman had her head at Mr Olding's penis. She did not see any signs of distress.

Judge Smyth also said Ms Florence gave evidence that she told a friend she'd just seen a threesome.

The judge told jurors to assess inconsistencies in evidence provided by the complainant during early accounts.

She did not mention digital penetration, oral sex or that a woman had walked in on the alleged attack, the court heard.

She told the jury it was up to them to look at the complainant's evidence and decide if it was true.

Judge Smyth told the jury its only task was to decide whether the prosecution, on the basis of the evidence, had made them sure of the men's guilt.

"Do not let yourselves be distracted from that task," she said.

Judge Smyth is expected to finish giving her charge to the jury this morning.

Irish Independent

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