Thursday 21 November 2019

Officer had 'no explanation' for not recording info on rugby rape case witness

Paddy Jackson arrives at Belfast Laganside courts. Picture: Getty
Paddy Jackson arrives at Belfast Laganside courts. Picture: Getty
Rory Harrison

Lesley-Anne McKeown

A senior investigating officer was quizzed about why she had not recorded first being told of the potential witness to an alleged rape, Dara Florence.

"I have no explanation as to why that is not included," the detective chief inspector told the rape trial of two Ireland and Ulster rugby stars.

Blane McIlroy
Blane McIlroy

Brendan Kelly QC, defending Paddy Jackson, read an extract from the officer's notebook dated July 6, 2016, in which she stated: "The potential significance of this eyewitness account cannot be undervalued and may assist the prosecution and/or defence." However, a second statement was not taken from Ms Florence until September, the court heard.

The court also heard that CCTV footage from outside Ollie's nightclub, where the defendants and complainant had visited, was not recovered because of "human error".

Mr Jackson (26), from Oakleigh Park in Belfast, and Stuart Olding (24), from Ardenlee Street in the city, deny raping the same woman during an after-party at Jackson's home in June 2016. Mr Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.

Two other men are also on trial. Blane McIlroy (26), from Royal Lodge Road, Belfast, denies one count of exposure, while Rory Harrison (25), from Manse Road, Belfast, denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Stuart Olding
Stuart Olding

Earlier, a detective constable was asked about apparent discrepancies in accounts provided by the complainant.

"Completely different" histories had been given to police and doctors, according to Frank O'Donoghue QC, representing Mr Olding.

Questioned about her reaction to a medical report from the Rowan referral centre, the lawyer said: "Did you not say 'what in God's name is this?'"

The detective constable replied: "I do not think I would have said that, no."

However, later the officer conceded there had been "significant inconsistencies".

Mr O'Donoghue said: "Was it not apparent there were significant inconsistencies between what the complainant said to the Rowan [referral centre] and what she was telling the police?"

"Yes, there were," the officer answered.

Differing or inconsistent accounts could be attributed to trauma, mistake or fragmented memory, the court was told.

Mr O'Donoghue added: "But of course there may be another less plausible reason and sometimes it is deemed necessary to ask the witness."

The detective constable, attached to the Police Service of Northern Ireland's (PSNI) rape crime unit, was further asked to explain why "crucial questions" were not put to the complainant. The officer, who has 20 years' experience, said: "She gave us the detail of what she had and the detail she could give at the time."

The court heard that while Mr Olding was being questioned by police on June 30, 2016, his house was searched without his knowledge.

A number of items of clothing were seized but not the blue shirt, trousers or brown shoes he had been wearing on the night of the alleged attack.

Mr O'Donoghue asked: "Was there ever a direction to get the shirt, to get the jeans, to get the shoes and to get the boxers?"

The officer answered: "Not to my knowledge."

She said investigators would have assessed the evidential value of having the items forensically tested.

Prosecutors have now concluded their case.

The next stage of the trial will provide each of the defendants with an opportunity to "give evidence if they wish", Judge Patricia Smyth said.

They could also "call witnesses on their behalf", she added.

Irish Independent

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