Sunday 26 May 2019

Man to be charged after 'identifying' rugby trial woman

Rugby stars Paddy Jackson (left) and Stuart Olding were cleared. Photo: PA
Rugby stars Paddy Jackson (left) and Stuart Olding were cleared. Photo: PA

Darwin Templeton

A man is facing court after he allegedly identified the woman who was at the centre of the rugby rape trial in a social media post.

Prosecutors have confirmed that the suspect is to be charged with breaching the anonymity of the complainant in the high-profile case involving Ireland and Ulster players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, and two others.

The accused man - who has not been named - is due before a magistrate's court later in the year.

If convicted he faces a fine of up to £5,000 (€5,600).

A Public Prosecution Service (PPS) spokesperson said: "After a careful consideration of all evidence, it has been decided to prosecute that person on one charge of breaching the lifetime ban on reporting the identity of an alleged victim.

It has also emerged the PPS has decided not to prosecute another person who was investigated by the PSNI over posts linked to the case.

Under the Sexual Offences Amendment Act, complainants in rape cases are granted anonymity for life and it is illegal to identify them.

In March, Mr Jackson and Mr Olding were cleared of rape after a trial that lasted 42 days. They had been accused of sexually assaulting a woman at Mr Jackson's home after a night out in June 2016. The other men - Blane McIlroy, who was accused of exposure, and Rory Harrison, who was charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information - were also found not guilty.

The trial of the prominent sports stars at Belfast Crown Court generated intense debate on social media.

At several points, lawyers drew Judge Patricia Smyth's attention to online comments they felt endangered the defendants' right to a fair trial.

Following the case, Mr Jackson's defence lawyer Joe McVeigh also highlighted the problems caused during the trial by commentary on social media.

He said that several days had been lost due to the issues thrown up by online material and claimed that lawyers had been distracted by having to monitor online content, particularly during the last phase of the hearing.

In the wake of the trial, retired Appeal Court Judge John Gillen was asked by the Criminal Justice Board to lead a major review into how serious sexual crimes are handled by the judicial system.

He is expected to finish his report by January.

Irish Independent

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