Monday 21 May 2018

Application to lift reporting restrictions on Belfast rape trial to be heard next week

An application by various media outlets to lift reporting restrictions on the Belfast rape trial will come before the trial judge next Monday

Rory Harrison, Stuart Olding, Paddy Jackson and Blane McIlroy were cleared of the charges in a Belfast court
Rory Harrison, Stuart Olding, Paddy Jackson and Blane McIlroy were cleared of the charges in a Belfast court

Eimear Cotter

AN APPLICATION by various media outlets to lift reporting restrictions on the Belfast rape trial will come before the trial judge next Monday.

A preliminary application on the matter was made before the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Sir Declan Morgan, this morning.

Sir Morgan said the trial judge, Judge Patricia Smyth, was aware of the application and was available next week to consider it.

The Lord Chief Justice said he was aware of the argument that “news was perishable” and it was on that basis that the application would be dealt with expeditiously.

Last Wednesday, Irish and Ulster rugby stars Paddy Jackson (26) and Stuart Olding (25) were acquitted by a jury of eight men and three women of raping a then 19-year-old student at Jackson’s home in June 2016.

Mr Jackson was also cleared of a charge of sexually assaulting the same women.

Both men had also said that the sexual activity was consensual.

Their friends Blane McIlroy (26) was cleared of exposure and Rory Harrison (25) was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice and withholding information. They too had also denied the charges.

The jury returned their verdict after three hours and 45 minutes of deliberations.

This morning, an application came before the High Court to lift reporting restrictions which were imposed during the course of the trial.

Sir Morgan said he was sitting in his capacity as a Crown Court judge. He said he was “not making any determination” on the application, and that it should properly be argued before the original trial judge, Judge Smyth.

He said Judge Smyth was available to hear the application on Monday.

Frank O’Donoghue QC, who represented Stuart Olding during the nine-week trial, said the application was originally due to be heard at the end of April.

Mr O’Donoghue said there were “real practical difficulties” with the application proceeding on Monday, as a number of the lawyers were out of the country.

He said he “did want to object” to the application by the media, but that he needed time to prepare his arguments.

He also said there was a need for “absolute clarity” on the effects on any orders.

Gerry Simpson QC, for the press, said he was conscious the application had come at an unusual time.

“It’s now a week since the trial ended. It will be another week before this application is heard. I’m keen to keep pressing on with it”, he said.

The Lord Chief Justice said he believed that “skeleton arguments” should be ready by the end of the week and he adjourned the application to Judge Smyth on Monday.

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