Wednesday 22 May 2019

Man accused of naming rugby rape trial woman due in court

Sean McFarland
Sean McFarland

Christopher Woodhouse

THIS is the man accused of revealing the name of the woman who alleged she had been raped by two Ulster rugby stars.

Sean McFarland is charged with breaching the woman’s right to lifetime anonymity while the trial was ongoing in February this year. Ulster and Ireland players Stuart Olding and Paddy Jackson were unanimously acquitted of raping the woman at a party in Jackson’s house after a night out in Belfast in June 2016.

Blane McIlroy was cleared of a charge of exposure while Rory Harrison was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

West Belfast man McFarland (35) is due in court this week on a single charge under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992.

If convicted he could face a fine of up to £5,000.

When Sunday Life called to his home in the Lenadoon area, he declined to comment on the case.

“I don’t want to say anything, you need to speak to my solicitor,” he said.

His case is listed at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday but he does not have to attend in person as he can be represented by a solicitor in his absence.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) confirmed a man had been charged with breaching the woman’s anonymity last month.

In a statement the PPS said a second person suspected of committing the same offence was not to be prosecuted due to insufficient evidence.

The nine-week trial at Belfast Crown Court was halted on numerous occasions.

Retired Appeal Court Judge Sir John Gillen has been appointed to conduct a review of how sexual offence cases in Northern Ireland are conducted due to the potential impact of social media on a fair trial and a complainant’s anonymity.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Law in Action programme earlier this year, he said options he was considering included recommending the accused are granted anonymity during trials, as they are in the Irish Republic.

Sir John also raised the possibility of the public being excluded from attending such trials as the complainant’s right to anonymity has “disappeared” and had been “bandied about” on social media.

“The hammer of the law should come down on those who indulge in misconduct,” he said.

He said that as Belfast is a relatively small city, if people post about a case on social media the “law becomes a farce”.

Sir John cited the example of photos and the past history of the complainant, “completely untrue in most instances”, being shared online.

The Attorney General’s office is also investigating a juror who posted comments online under a story about the verdict.

Jurors are forbidden from revealing anything about their deliberations under contempt of court laws. Following their acquittal, lawyers for Jackson and Olding warned that they are monitoring social media for any potentially libellous comments about the men.

Belfast Telegraph

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