Wednesday 19 December 2018

Police probing identification of woman at centre of rape trial on social media

Rory Harrison, Stuart Olding, Paddy Jackson and Blane McIlroy were cleared of the charges in a Belfast court
Rory Harrison, Stuart Olding, Paddy Jackson and Blane McIlroy were cleared of the charges in a Belfast court
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The identification of the woman at the centre of the Belfast rape trial on social media is being investigated, police have confirmed.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said that the woman who claimed that she was raped by Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding two years ago at a house party has been named online, breaching her legal entitlements.

Jackson and Olding were found not guilty at Belfast Crown Court of raping the then-19-year-old student by a jury on Wednesday.

Mr Jackson (26) was also found not guilty of sexually assaulting the then 19-year-old woman.

The rugby players' close friend Blane McIlroy (26) has been found not guilty of exposure.

A second friend, Rory Harrison (25), has been found not guilty of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

PSNI Detective Chief Superintendent Paula Hilman (left) and Detective Chief Inspector Zoe McGee hold a press conference at the Hilton Hotel in Belfast in response to the acquittal of Ireland rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
PSNI Detective Chief Superintendent Paula Hilman (left) and Detective Chief Inspector Zoe McGee hold a press conference at the Hilton Hotel in Belfast in response to the acquittal of Ireland rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

After three hours and 45 minutes of deliberation, the jury of eight men and three women returned to courtroom No 12 shortly after noon and told the judge they had reached a unanimous verdict on all counts.

Detective Chief Superintendent Paula Hilman, Head of Public Protection Branch said:  “We accept and acknowledge the decision made by the jury in this case. We thank them and Her Honour Judge Smyth, for their time and commitment to what was a lengthy and complex case.

PPS assistant director Marianne O’Kane makes a statement to the media yesterday. Photo: PA
PPS assistant director Marianne O’Kane makes a statement to the media yesterday. Photo: PA

“This has been a difficult time for all those involved in this trial.  We have faith and trust in the legal system and respect the verdict.

“I would like to pay tribute to the young woman who had the resolve and confidence to come forward and put her faith in police and the criminal justice process.  In addition to this, she was named on social media sites during the trial contrary to her legal entitlement. Any breach of this entitlement is and will be investigated.”

The North's Public Prosecution Service has defended its decision to bring a prosecution.

Marianne O'Kane, Public Prosecution Service Assistant Director and Head of the PPS's Serious Crime Unit, said that the evidence in the case was "subjected to a very thorough and careful examination by a team of experienced lawyers" before they concluded that "the test for prosecution was met", in line with its code for prosecutors.

"This meant that there was both sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction and it was in the public interest to prosecute.

"This case was properly brought before the courts and overcame a number of legal challenges", she said.

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