Sunday 16 December 2018

Blane McIlroy has put 'his parents through the wringer', rugby rape trial hears

Jury at the Belfast trial are now hearing closing submissions

From left to right, Ireland and Ulster player Paddy Jackson, 26, his team-mate Stuart Olding, 24, and third defendant Blane McIlroy, 26
From left to right, Ireland and Ulster player Paddy Jackson, 26, his team-mate Stuart Olding, 24, and third defendant Blane McIlroy, 26

Lesley-Anne McKeown

A barrister for Blane McIlroy began his closing submission to a jury at Belfast Crown Court this afternoon.

Arthur Harvey QC told the 11 jurors McIlroy had answered "every single question" put to him by police.

He said: "When Mr McIlroy entered that police station he was every bit as unaware of the legal system and how it operates as you were when you were sworn on the jury."

The jury at the Belfast trial are now hearing closing submissions.

Blane McIlroy. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Blane McIlroy. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Paddy Jackson, 26, from Oakleigh Park in the city, denies rape and sexual assault at a house party in June 2016.

His team-mate, Stuart Olding, 25, from Ardenlee Street in Belfast, denies raping the woman.

Two others are also charged with offences connected to the alleged rape.

Blane McIlory, 26, from Royal Lodge Road in Belfast, denies exposure, while Rory Harrison, 25, from Manse Road, Belfast, denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Stuart Olding
Stuart Olding

Blane McIlroy has put his "parents through the ringer", his defence counsel has said.

Given his background and character they would expect he would tell them the truth, the court was told.

Mr Harvey said: "Mr McIlroy has told the truth. The truth is simply not compatible with the account of (the complainant)."

The lawyer later asked: "What rational, reasonable, sensible, intelligent individual would present himself in the police station to give an account before he knew what any of the allegations are specifically against him.

Paddy Jackson
Paddy Jackson

"To incriminate himself in a potentially much more serious charge.

"Quite simply it does not bear examination," said Mr Harvey.

Telling the jury that when arrested in June 2016 McIlroy was one semester short of completing a university degree in America, Mr Harvey branded the case as a "tragedy" for everyone involved.

Last week the jury was asked to consider whether or not the four men on trial were "liars or legends." However, Mr Harvey said this was not the case as "that does not answer the primary function you are here to fulfil ... and that is to determine whether or not Mr McIlroy and his co-defendants are guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the charges that they face."

In her evidence, the complainant said after she was attacked by Jackson and Olding, a naked McIlroy appeared in the room, and thrust his penis at her, demanding sex. This version was rejected by McIlroy, who said that after walking into the bedroom, the woman masturbated him then briefly performed oral sex on him, before asking if anyone had condoms.

McIlroy said Jackson was also in the room, and after leaving to look for condoms, when he came back to the bedroom the woman was getting dressed.

Mr Harvey said McIlroy's "life changed, and it changed irrevocably" 20 month ago when his client walked into a police station and gave an account of what happened.

Mr Harvey talked about the young woman who also attended the afterparty at Jackson's, and who opened the bedroom door and gave evidence that she saw a consensual threesome.

Regarding what he called "indiscrepancies" in the complainant's account - which the defence barrister attributed to alcohol consumption - Mr Harvey posed the question "What had she to gain from telling an untruth?".

He told the jury: "The simple thing, in literature and life, is that lies don't start off, necessarily, as a malicious intent to cause real damage to others. But lies build on lies. If you have a sense you are about to be shamed on a network to which your friends access, the first reaction is 'how do you deal with the shame?' Mostly, it's 'how do I save face?'

Mr Harvey said her reaction was one of being mortified of the consequences of having her image uploaded onto social media, as she feared the woman at the door had taken a picture of the scene in the bedroom.

Regarding the woman's allegations against McIlroy, Mr Harvey spoke of "significant and substantial differences" in accounts she gave to different people.

He said the first narrative was in a text message to a friend, where the complainant says '3rd guy coming and trying to join in, pushing his d**k at me.' Mr Harvey said she mentions McIlroy at the Brooke Clinic in Belfast as a '3rd person attempting to join in.'

She then told a medic at the Rowan Centre 'a man, third guy, came in and took his trousers down', which Mr Harvey said then graduated to telling police McIlroy 'appears at the door naked.'

Mr Harvey asked the jury to consider what McIlroy told police when he was interviewed on June 30. Saying his client's account must have "bewildered" officers, the QC asked whether or not it was possible that McIlroy "deliberately lied to his parents and deliberately manufactured an account he would then deliver to the police over the course of 12 interviews."

Saying the police "quite simply ... didn't know how to handle the truth", Mr Harvey also asked whether it was plausible that McIlroy was "prepared to sacrifice himself and face more serious charges" as well as putting his parents "through the wringer."

Mr Harvey said: "Mr McIlroy has told the truth. The truth is simply not compatible with the account of (the complainant) and (the complainant) as we know has a memory which is fragmented - she accepted that - and alcohol is a ready explanation for that."

He also asked the jury: "What rational, reasonable, sensible, intelligent individual would present themselves in a police station to give an account, before he knew what any of the allegations were, specifically against him?

"To incriminate himself to a potentially much more serious charge, quite simply, it does not bear examination."

Mr Harvey also mentioned the texts, and said that while the defendants were braggarts, they weren't rapists.

Telling the jury their verdict "will affect a young man for the rest of his life", Mr Harvey asked if they were sure beyond reasonable doubt of his guilt. Telling the members to "honour your oath" and come to a verdict based on the evidence, Mr Harvey said this verdict should be one of 'not guilty.'

Defence

Earlier, the court heard Stuart Olding's defence barrister who said evidence presented in the rape trial of the two Ireland and Ulster rugby players does not come close to proving the guilt of Stuart Olding.

In his closing submission Frank O'Donoghue QC said the burden of proof lies with the prosecution.

The lawyer said: "It does not come remotely near the required standard to render you sure that Stuart Olding orally raped the complainant on June 28 2016."

Referring to a question posed by the prosecution which asked what the woman had to gain by telling the truth, Mr Harvey said: "The answer is, her reputation."

Earlier the barrister told jurors lies do not always start out with malicious intent.

He said: "The simple thing in literature as in life is that lies do not start off necessarily as a malicious intent to cause harm to others, but lies build on lies.

"If you have a sense that you are about to be shamed on a network which your friends access, your first reaction is 'how do you deal with that shame' and mostly it is 'how do I save face'.

"And that's the reaction she had because she said that in her ABE (achieving best evidence) interview."

Mr O'Donoghue told jurors there were more than a dozen questions police should have asked.

"Why did she not say no?" he said. "Why did she open her mouth? Why didn't she scream? A lot of middle class girls were downstairs, they were not going to tolerate a rape or anything like that. Why didn't she scream the house down."

The lawyer told the court that when the evidence is studied it demonstrates that the woman has "no reliable memory" of being forced to perform oral sex.

The barrister added: "I am asking you to get down and dirty as far as all the evidence is concerned. To roll up your sleeves."

The police investigation was flawed, the barrister suggested.

He put it to the jury: "You have an ABE interview devoid of detail on the allegation that was an assumption of force. And a police force that never truly studied what's being said and what questions needed to be asked. If you look at the evidence in chief it is of necessity completely devoid of relevant and essential detail."

He also said it was of "hopeless quality".

He said the investigation of the woman's allegations against Olding was "at best poor" and "at worst, virtually non existent".

Olding has told the truth and is a reliable, credible witness, his defence counsel also told Belfast Crown Court.

Mr O'Dononghue claimed the account provided to police and to the court during the high-profile rape trial "proves" his innocence.

The lawyer said: "He has never shied away from telling anyone who would listen what happened.

"He has undoubtedly told the truth, warts and all."

Mr O'Dononghue urged the jury to "do justice" in the case and acquit Olding.

Drawing his statement to a close after about two hours, he said his client "welcomed" the chance to be heard by a jury.

"Finally, that someone might listen to him and decide what he told was the truth, warts and all.

"The reality is there was no rape by Stuart Olding. There is no case here.

"There was no force used. There was consent on both sides at that time. Perhaps a matter of regret now, to all parties, but such is life.

"Stuart Olding is innocent in this charge. I implore you to do your duty."

The case will sit again tomorrow when Gavan Duffy QC, the barrister representing Rory Harrison (25) will be the fourth and and final defence barrister to address the jury.

From Manse Road in Belfast, Harrison has been charged with, and denies, perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

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