Thursday 26 April 2018

Nicola Anderson at rugby rape trial: 'You don't have the power to change your minds,' jury told

Rory Harrison
Rory Harrison
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

The little joke Rory Harrison's lawyer had penned by way of an opener plopped silently like a pebble into a stagnant stream in the dense atmosphere of the courtroom.

"Closing statements are a bit like buses - you wait for ages for one and then five come along," said Gavan Duffy QC.

Not a single person in the room could even muster up a polite titter and, hurriedly, he went on to add that he would do his best to be as concise as he could.

And then he gave a potted history of how juries "have existed in this part of the world for 800 years", having come in with the Norman invasion. "The word jury comes from the old Norman French word which means to take an oath to be sworn," he told them.

After eight long weeks broken by numerous delays, the finishing line is finally in sight. Judge Patricia Smyth will begin her direction to the jury today, before completing it on Monday.

And then the deliberations can begin - however long that may take.

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

Mr Duffy reminded them that they can not undertake this lightly - they cannot make a phonecall to court services when it's all over to say that something has been troubling them.

"There is one power that is removed from you," he said.

"That is the power to change your mind."

Like the rest of the defence counsel, Mr Duffy went on to do his best to persuade the jury why his client should be acquitted.

Mr Harrison was interviewed three times by the police, he said, adding that he had answered "every single question asked" and had consistently and positively denied any offences, he claimed.

"He came before you and gave evidence from the witness box - he didn't have to do that," said Mr Duffy, claiming he had done so in an "honest, straightforward and candid manner".

Mr Duffy said that had it been Rory Harrison who had opened the door to Paddy Jackson's bedroom rather than Dara Florence, the prosecution would have claimed that the testimony about apparently witnessing a threesome were "weasel words, lies, criminal lies and an attempt to pervert the course of justice".

"You'd be invited to treat Mr Harrison's account with cynicism. You might even be tempted to convict Mr Harrison on that basis. But you'd be wrong."

Even the complainant had considered him to be "really good" and said he had done "absolutely nothing wrong".

"At what point did he become a weasel?" questioned Mr Duffy.

Irish Independent

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