Thursday 19 July 2018

Rugby rape trial: Massive outpouring of commentary on social media as #IBelieveHer trends

Ireland and Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson leaving Belfast Crown Court after he was found not guilty of raping a woman at a property in south Belfast in June 2016 Picture date: Wednesday March 28, 2018. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Ireland and Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson leaving Belfast Crown Court after he was found not guilty of raping a woman at a property in south Belfast in June 2016 Picture date: Wednesday March 28, 2018. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Fiona Dillon

Fiona Dillon

The “not guilty” verdict for all defendants in the Belfast rape trial has been greeted with a massive outpouring of commentary on social media.

From many, there was support and sympathy for the complainant -  notwithstanding the verdict which cleared the men - following the prolonged and distressing case.

The hashtag #IBelieveHer was trending at number one in the aftermath of the verdict on Twitter today, even though all four defendants in the trial left court vindicated.

The case attracted huge attention during the course of the nine-week trial, and the verdict attracted a wide variety of opinion on social media.

Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were found not guilty by a jury of raping a young student at a house party two years ago. Mr Jackson (26) was also found not guilty of sexually assaulting the then 19-year-old woman.

Blane McIlroy (26) was found not guilty of exposure, and Rory Harrison (25) was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

A large number of people took to Twitter to give their opinion at the conclusion of the case. Some were concerned that the gruelling nature of the trial could deter women who have a similar complaint from coming forward.

Many felt that the approach to alleged cases of sexual assault and rape needs to change.

There was also praise for the bravery of the woman at the centre of the high- profile trial, and there was sympathy for the position she found herself in today. 

There was also a plea from one woman on Twitter that anyone affected by the verdict should take some time to take care of themselves.

However, there was also criticism, with one twitter user said that the #IBelieveHer hashtag was “yet another reminder that so many in this country have no understanding or respect for the concepts of presumption of innocence, due process and independent juries.”

Others have continued to stress on social media that the men have been found not guilty in a court of law.

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