Sunday 17 February 2019

'It wasn't forced on her... I presumed she wanted it'

The rape trial of two Ireland rugby stars has heard evidence from the players themselves as well as differing medical opinions, writes Ashleigh McDonald

Paddy Jackson Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Paddy Jackson Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Stuart Olding Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Ashleigh McDonald

Despite sitting for only three days last week, an abundance of evidence was heard at the trial in Belfast of two Ireland rugby players accused of rape - including differing opinions from medics, as well as the sportsmen's versions of events.

Paddy Jackson (26) and Stuart Olding (24) have been accused of raping a 19-year-old student in the bedroom of Mr Jackson's home in June 2016.

The pair, along with friends Rory Harrison (25) and Blane McIlroy (26), have sat in the dock of Belfast Crown Court for the past four weeks. In that time, the four men have listened intently as the Crown accused Mr Jackson and Mr Olding of rape, Mr McIlroy of exposing his genitals, and Mr Harrison of perverting the course of justice and withholding information in the aftermath of the alleged attack.

Last Friday the court heard transcripts of Mr Jackson's police interviews and audio recordings of Mr Olding's. Both men denied the woman's allegations of rape and instead claimed any sexual activity that occurred in the early hours of June 28, 2016 was consensual.

Mr Jackson, who the jury heard "became upset" while being questioned, told police: "I didn't force myself on her. I presumed... it was happening and she wanted it to happen. She didn't have to stay. She could have left if she wanted but she didn't."

Mr Jackson and Mr Olding were arrested two days after the alleged attack and were taken to Musgrave police station in the centre of Belfast, where they were questioned by senior detectives from the Rape Crime Unit.

In the first of five interviews conducted with Mr Jackson that evening, his solicitor read out a pre-prepared statement, which said: "I have been arrested in relation to an allegation of rape, and a further allegation of sexual assault by penetration, arising from an incident on June 27/28. I strenuously deny these allegations. I am shocked and horrified these allegations have been made against me."

He made no further comment at that point, on legal advice, but in a later interview the woman's allegations were put to Mr Jackson in more detail - and at one point during questioning he became upset.

He confirmed to police that he had been partying with friends in Ollie's nightclub and also confirmed people went back to his house in the early hours of the following morning.

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When he was asked about the woman at the centre of the case, Mr Jackson said he had never met her before that evening, and was unsure how she ended up back at his house.

He said the woman "was being quite forward" with him, and she twice followed him up to his bedroom. He claimed the first time they were upstairs there was kissing, but this ended when she asked if he knew what her name was, and he said he didn't.

He said they went back down to the party and "same again... I noticed she was still looking at me. A couple of times she came up and kind of touched me. I think she was flirting with me. I was pretty sure something was going to happen between us.

"So then I headed upstairs to my room and she followed me up and then from there we again, started kissing again. We just kind of picked up where we left off."

In his version of events, Mr Jackson said the woman started performing oral sex on him and "then the door opened and my friend Stuart who was there came in. He didn't know we were up there. He just walked in the room, saw what was happening with me and her." Mr Jackson claimed at this point "she stopped performing oral sex on me and started on him".

Mr Jackson claimed that as she was performing oral sex on Mr Olding he (Mr Jackson) started "using his hands on her". When asked by police to explain, Mr Jackson said: "I was using my hands and she seemed to be enjoying it. Sorry, I just find it a bit awkward talking about it."

Regarding the specifics of the sex acts, when asked by police about the oral sex with Mr Olding, Mr Jackson said: "It wasn't forced on her at all... I presumed she wanted it." And when asked how she seemed when he was using his fingers on her, he said she seemed "fine" and reiterated his claim "I didn't force myself on her".

When it was put to Mr Jackson during interview that the woman claimed he used his penis and she was forced to have intercourse, Mr Jackson replied "no" and said this was because there were no condoms.

Mr Jackson was also asked if the woman seemed distressed or upset in any way. He replied: "No, I don't think. She asked me if I had a condom and I didn't, so she maybe wanted to have sex but we didn't because I didn't have a condom."

And when asked what happened after the bedroom activity had finished, Mr Jackson said he thought Mr Olding went back downstairs "then me and her continued. We were still kissing and touching each other.

"So me and Stuart were obviously with her and once we finished I went back down to the party. I was talking with friends and stuff and then I think she just left from there and I presume she got a taxi home.

"I didn't realise anything was… I didn't rape her, and now we're here."

Mr Jackson was also asked if he noticed blood during the incident. He said he saw a "little bit" on his fingers and on the duvet but thought it was "period stuff".

The interviewing officer asked: "At any point did she say it was hurting her?" Mr Jackson replied: "I don't remember that. If I did I would have stopped. I definitely would have stopped." He then added: "I don't understand. If she was saying this, if she didn't want to be there, I would never have tried to keep her there. No way."

When asked about his friend Blane McIlroy, and whether or not he was also in the room "completely naked", Mr Jackson said: "Not when I was there, no."

Also played to the jury was an audio interview conducted with Mr Olding on the same night.

Mr Olding told police that before the evening in question, he had never met the woman who later claimed he orally raped her.

In interview, he was asked by an officer "This is a very blunt question. Did you rape anybody on Tuesday, June 28, 2016?" He replied: "No."

He confirmed that after Ollie's, he and others went back to Mr Jackson's house. He claimed that in the early hours, he went upstairs and walked into Mr Jackson's bedroom, where he saw his friend and the woman on the bed.

Mr Olding said the woman "suggested I stay" and then performed oral sex on him. He ejaculated and then "I got up and left and went to sleep in another room in the house".

When asked to elaborate, Mr Olding said: "I wouldn't say she asked ... when I was about to leave she hinted to stay."

When the officer asked him: "She put her hand out?" he said: "Yes." When asked what happened next, Mr Olding replied: "I went over to the bed and started kissing her." He was then asked: "When you were kissing her, where was Paddy?" Mr Olding replied: "He was lying beside her."

And when asked: "What made you think she was consenting to this kiss taking place?" he answered: "She didn't pull away. She kissed me back." He was also asked: "How did it escalate from kissing to oral sex?" to which he replied: "I don't really recall. It just sort of happened."

It is Mr Olding's case that the woman performed oral sex on him for around five minutes and that, after ejaculating, he left the room. He also claimed at one point the woman "asked us to go and get condoms". When asked by police who this request was directed at, Mr Olding said: "Both of us."

Earlier in the week, the jury heard evidence from two doctors - one who examined the woman in the hours following the incident, and one who questioned his findings.

First to take the witness stand was Dr Philip Lavery, who carried out a medical examination at the Rowan sexual assault referral centre at Antrim Area Hospital.

The forensic medical officer said it was not possible to determine if an intimate injury that the complainant sustained was caused by consensual or non-consensual sex.

Dr Lavery, who has been a GP since 1996, said the woman came as a self-referral and that his role was both "evidential and therapeutic".

The doctor confirmed nursing notes stated "no visible signs of injury", and that he recorded the complainant was "co-operative but tearful" when discussing what occurred.

When Dr Lavery was asked what the complainant told him, he read a note he made that night which stated: "Went to an address after a nightclub. There a male 'came on to me'. She refused his advances. Decided to leave, went back upstairs to get bag, male followed her into the bedroom. He pushed her on to the bed, face down. Took off her trousers and underwear and vaginally raped her from behind, then turned her over and raped her from in front.

"No condom was used, unsure whether there was ejaculation. He caused pain as he was 'rough'. She noticed vaginal bleeding at this time. He kissed and touched her breasts and neck.

'A second male entered the room and vaginally raped her while she was on her back. Unsure whether a condom was used, unsure about ejaculation. Second man kissed her neck.

"A third male came into the room, took his trousers off. When the second man got off her, she took her trousers and ran away."

When Dr Lavery was asked if he noted that any threats and violence were used, he said: "None". He was also asked about bruising on the woman's right arm and leg, and told the court that during the exam she said she had no recollection of how she got the bruises.

The doctor noted bruising, and a 1cm internal tear in her vaginal wall which was bleeding and which he said had been caused by blunt force trauma.

When asked if it was possible to determine whether or not this tear had been caused by consensual or non-consensual intercourse, Dr Lavery replied: "There is no way to give entire credence as to whether this was consensual or not. It does not help on deciding consensuality of intercourse."

He rejected suggestions that the blood was menstrual fluid, and said when he put pressure on the tear with a swab it stopped bleeding, and when the pressure was relieved the bleeding resumed.

The following day in court, Dr Lavery's medical examination was criticised by a medic called to court by Mr Jackson's legal team. Dr Janet Hall, who the court heard was a leading forensic medical expert, voiced concerns over the finding of the internal injury 14 hours after the woman claimed she was raped

Dr Hall said had she found such an injury still bleeding, it would have given her "cause for concern" and she would have immediately referred the patient for treatment.

She told the court she had reviewed the notes and a video of the examination carried out by Dr Lavery.

Questioned by Brendan Kelly QC, the barrister representing Mr Jackson, Dr Hall said that while a video showed an examining instrument in place, it was not noted in the notes and, although blood could be seen, there was no indication as to "where that blood was coming from".

Asked the purpose of such recordings, she replied it gave a visual confirmation of any findings, "and as we all know, a picture tells the whole story more than any number of words".

However, Dr Hall said the video in this case "did not show me where the laceration was... it was just a pool of blood". She went on to say there was no note of whether or not the blood was the result of menstrual flow, which could be intermittent.

She added that she would have liked to have seen the blood from the alleged injury "swabbed away" so that she could view the injury and ascertain if it was still bleeding.

Dr Hall said that having thought of the evidence of Dr Lavery "overnight", any internal tear which was still bleeding "gives me cause for concern", adding that the blood "leaves a question in my mind, could it still be menstrual?"

The jury also heard evidence from a forensic scientist who examined clothes worn by the complainant on the night she claimed she was raped.

The senior scientific officer carried out tests on white jeans, a black top and a pair of pants. The forensic scientist told the trial Mr Olding's semen was located on all three items.

And while the top tested negative for blood, the complainant's blood was found on both her pants and trousers, as well as a duvet taken from Mr Jackson's bedroom.

The trial is due to recommence tomorrow when the jury will hear more police interviews.

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