Judge: 'The only reason' Rory Best attended rape trial was because he was asked to do so
IRELAND rugby captain Rory Best was asked to attend the rape trial of two international teammates by senior counsel, a court has heard.
The jury of nine men and three women heard he had been asked by a senior barrister to attend the hearing at Belfast Crown Court last week.
Judge Patricia Smyth said: "The only reason that Mr Rory Best was in this courtroom was because he was directed to be here by senior counsel.
"That's the reason he was here. That's the only reason. I think you should know that."
Paddy Jackson, from Oakleigh Park in Belfast, and Stuart Olding, from Ardenlee Street in the city, deny raping the same woman at a house in south Belfast in June 2016.
Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.
Two other men have also been returned for trial on charges connected with the same incident alleged to have happened at an after-party following an evening at a Belfast nightclub on June 28, 2016.
Blane McIlroy, 26, from Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, has pleaded not guilty to one count of exposure, while Rory Harrison, 25, from Manse Road, Belfast denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.
The cross examination of the girl at the centre of the trial is continuing today, with Brendan Kelly QC for Paddy Jackson, putting it to the young woman that she had claimed she thought a group of mutual friends would be going back to this after party.
However he said this was never said by her in police interviews.
She said: "I thought I made it clear I thought more people were coming back to the house," adding that this was usually what happens.
Mr Kelly said she had been asked by Toby Hedworth QC for the Prosecution if she had contacted her friends and she said she had sent a text.
But she had only sent a text to a friend saying she was at Paddy Jackson’s house, he said, putting it to her why she hadn’t texted her friend the address.
"She didn’t reply immediately," the girl said.
Mr Kelly said she had replied 16 minutes later at 3.20am saying "ha ha", asking her what this meant.
"I’m not entirely sure. I don’t take ‘ha ha’ to actually mean anything," she told him.
Mr Kelly said the friend had then asked “how” and “why”.
"She didn’t get much of a reply to that text did she," he asked, saying: "You didn’t respond, did you?"
She said: "I was obviously chatting to someone" and shook her head as to why she didn’t respond.
He put it to her that she had "no interest" in partying with her friends but her interests had "suddenly focused on Paddy Jackson that morning."
The woman said she did not think that was fair.
"Your focus was on your host, Paddy Jackson," repeated Mr Kelly.
The high-profile case, scheduled for five weeks, is being heard by Judge Patricia Smyth.
Additional reporting by PA