Sunday 22 April 2018

Rugby rape trial: Key witness interviewed by police twice as 'detail was lacking', court told

Dara Florence, pictured, Claire Matthews and Emily Docherty appeared as witnesses in the trial of Ulster and Ireland rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding. Photos: Pacemaker
Dara Florence, pictured, Claire Matthews and Emily Docherty appeared as witnesses in the trial of Ulster and Ireland rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding. Photos: Pacemaker

Claire O'Boyle

Detectives investigating rape allegations against two Ulster Rugby players were yesterday cross-examined about the police statements of a witness.

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding (24) are charged with raping the same woman in June 2016. Mr Jackson (26) faces a second charge of sexual assault. Both deny the offences.

The court heard that Dara Florence, who walked into Mr Jackson's room in the course of the alleged attack, was interviewed by police twice: first on July 1, 2016 and then on September 8, 2016.

Gavan Duffy QC, barrister for Rory Harrison (25) from Manse Road, Belfast - who is charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding evidence - said evidence given by Ms Florence in her initial police statement on July 1, 2016, suggested "her impression was that what she had seen was not a non-consensual act".

He said there was a "significant issue arising from the content of her first statement" because whether she had witnessed a "consensual or non-consensual act... (was) at the very heart of this investigation".

A second detective told the court his first interview with her lasted around 30 minutes.

The officer went on to explain how the statement was passed on to the senior investigating officer for review, and on July 14 he was asked to "go back to Dara and be a bit more thorough with certain aspects" of the interview.

The officer confirmed the questions asked on the second interview would have been "more specific" and that he was told of the "elements of the statement she needed to be more detailed on".

When asked by Mr Jackson's barrister Brendan Kelly QC if "concern" had been recorded about being rushed at the point the first interview was carried out, the officer said: "No."

The detective added: "There was nothing specific I felt was left out (of the first interview).

"There was just some detail lacking."

When pressed on the detail, the officer said: "The two aspects I remember (being asked for more on) were the noises she could hear and the exact positions she could see, including hand placement and things like that."

Mr Kelly asked: "Did you know when you went back to speak to Dara Florence that in fact Paddy Jackson had denied penetrating (the woman) with his penis?" The officer replied: "I did know that, yes."

The barrister continued: "Were your senior officers concerned about Dara Florence's evidence?"

He answered: "Not necessarily, not to my knowledge." Mr Kelly told the court that senior officers on the case had consulted the Public Prosecution Service on July 5, 2016, and that "one of the items discussed was Dara Florence".

The detective said: "I wasn't aware of that."

The trial continues.

Belfast Telegraph

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