Wednesday 16 January 2019

'She ran her fingernails down my right arm... it got my attention'

Irish rugby player Paddy Jackson told the court his version of what happened on the night he is accused of rape, writes Niamh Horan

Ireland and Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson arrives at Belfast Crown Court where he is on trial accused of raping a woman in June 2016. Photo: PA
Ireland and Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson arrives at Belfast Crown Court where he is on trial accused of raping a woman in June 2016. Photo: PA
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

The heat in Belfast's Crown Court was stifling as family and friends of the defendants packed into the courtroom on level four to see Paddy Jackson take the stand.

Last Wednesday at 10am, to complete silence, Brendan Kelly, QC for Mr Jackson, said the words: "Your honour, I will now call Patrick Jackson."

As he finally placed his hand on the Bible, every seat in the public gallery was taken.

Mr Kelly started with Mr Jackson's background. The court heard he was born on January 5, 1992 in Lisburn, Co Antrim. He has one older brother and a younger sister. His mother and father sat in the front row of the gallery. His father, wearing a black pinstripe suit, watched as his son took the stand.

The court heard how Mr Jackson had no previous convictions and had gained three A levels at school. Asked about school friendships, he said: "I had a lot of friends in my year and in the year above and below."

Mr Kelly then asked him to confirm that he was a professional rugby player. Mr Jackson started playing "mini rugby" at Harlequins in Belfast and the court heard how he often played a year or two ahead of his age group.

He confirmed that he had held "the accolade of captain" in Irish schools rugby.

Asked about his friendship with fellow accused Stuart Olding, Mr Jackson said the pair first met at a rugby academy and were "very close".

Referring to another of the accused, Blane McIlroy, he said they were in the "same year in school" and that he had known him since he was 11. On the fourth accused, Rory Harrison, he said it was "the same".

Moving on to his rugby friendships, Mr Jackson told the court: "Myself and Iain Henderson are very close."

Mr Kelly asked Mr Jackson to "help the jury" as to who Mr Henderson was, enquiring: "I think he plays for Ireland and certainly represented on one tour, if not two, with the British Lions?"

"Yes," Mr Jackson confirmed.

Mr Jackson said he was also friends with Craig Gilroy and Rory Best, the latter of whom he said he was "very close" with, adding: "I have learned a lot from him over the last couple of years."

Mr Jackson confirmed that he used to babysit for Mr Best's children and that he was "invited to his son's sixth birthday".

Questioned by Mr Kelly about hobbies outside rugby, Mr Jackson said: "I put a lot of pressure on myself in rugby and I like to relax and see friends, spend time with my family and my dog. I also like to watch a lot of films and I am into art, drawing, sketching and painting."

Asked what he drew, Mr Jackson replied: "A lot of superhero comics and stuff, my dog. It more helps me to relax and to focus on something outside rugby."

Mr Kelly then asked Mr Jackson if he enjoyed "miming or rapping". Mr Jackson told the court: "Yes, it's something I have done for years." He said he used to do it with his little sister and then "started sending [videos] to friends". He added: "Once I got more involved in rugby, it became a bit more 'out there' and people started to see it."

Mr Kelly then pointed out that "a number of those are placed on YouTube which have attracted hundreds of thousands, if not millions of views", which Mr Jackson confirmed.

Mr Kelly then jumped to the alleged rape: "You have been described as being party to a violent attack on [the complainant]," he said and asked Mr Jackson if that had ever been the case.

Mr Jackson replied: "No, I have never even been in a fight. I am not an aggressive person."

"Have you ever so much as thrown a punch?" asked Mr Kelly. "No," replied Mr Jackson.

Mr Kelly then went back to Mr Jackson's charity work as a rugby player, in particular his work with Mencap, a mental health organisation, and Action Cancer, for which, the court was told, Mr Jackson raised awareness for both testicular and prostate cancer.

Mr Kelly then asked Mr Jackson to confirm that by June 2016 - the month of the alleged attack - he had received 25 caps for Ireland. The barrister then highlighted how Mr Jackson had been "selected towards the end of April 2016" - two months before the alleged rape - to "represent Ireland on a tour of South Africa".

The court also heard how Mr Jackson had represented Ulster on more than 100 occasions.

The jury was told how, before Mr Jackson left on the tour, he spent a week in Dublin at a training camp in preparation.

He then flew to South Africa to play three matches between Ireland and South Africa. Mr Kelly pointed out that Ireland beat South Africa in the first game.

"What was the atmosphere of that tour?" asked Mr Kelly. Mr Jackson replied: "I felt a lot of pressure going in to it." He said: "This was my chance," adding: "Rugby is my passion, rugby is everything I wanted to do." He said it was his "chance to put my name on the big stage".

Detailing the timeline after the tour and leading up to the night of the alleged rape, Mr Jackson confirmed that Ireland played their last game on June 25.

On June 26, the team were not leaving to return home until 5.30pm so Mr Jackson and his teammates spent the day by the pool, relaxing with a few drinks.

On the day before the alleged attack, the team caught a long-haul flight home, travelling through the night from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg, with a stopover in London, then on to Dublin. Then finally, Mr Jackson got a bus back to Belfast with some of his teammates.

Mr Jackson said he couldn't sleep on the flight and watched movies instead. He and Mr Olding then travelled home together.

Once home, Mr Jackson explained how "we planned to drop the bags off in my house" and then meet up with Blane McIlroy, whom he hadn't seen in a long time owing to the fact that Mr McIlroy was living and studying in America, where he has a scholarship. He said he was "looking forward" to catching up with his childhood friend.

The four accused had drinks and watched football at Mr McIlroy's house, where his father ordered them Domino's pizza, and then went to Cutters Wharf for more food and drinks, and on to Ollie's nightclub, where they were given VIP access with wristbands.

The court heard how Mr Jackson would often be approached by strangers on nights out who wanted to meet him and take his picture.

Describing his physical state leaving the club, he said he had been drinking and was "tired, it was late, I had been travelling a long time". He said he wanted to "go home with my friends and relax".

Mr Jackson invited his friends back to his three-storey town house and told the court he remembered Mr McIlroy with three girls, who had also been invited back, but he didn't know who they were. It turned out that they were Dara Florence, Claire Mathews and another girl, now known to him as the complainant in the case.

The first time that he remembered seeing the alleged victim in the house was when she was sitting on the opposite sofa. Mr Jackson said: "I just smiled at her." He said he had no problem with her being there.

Mr Jackson said that during the night, the complainant's attention "was very much focused on me and it got my attention". He said it "seemed very innocent" and that they were "very much flirting", saying it was "both of us".

He went upstairs and he said the woman followed. Mr Kelly then asked Mr Jackson: "Were you in the bedroom before [the complainant]?" To which Mr Jackson replied: "Yes, 100pc."

He said he remembered because, when he walked in the main light wasn't working so he walked to a light by the bed to turn it on. He said the complainant walked in after him.

He said the pair sat on the bed and were "passionately kissing" but, at one point, Mr Jackson said, the complainant "pulled away" and "then she asked did I know what her name was". Mr Jackson said he thought it was her "flirtatious way" and she wanted "to test if I knew her name", adding: "When I didn't, it was a bit awkward for both of us."

Mr Jackson said he could hear everyone downstairs singing and laughing and he just wanted to be back down at the party again. Mr Jackson said he left the room first and, once back among the others, he said: "She came up very close to me." He said they were practically "face to face" and it was then "she ran her fingernails down my right arm". He said he felt "it was her way of getting my attention" and added: "It got my attention."

He told the court: "It was quite nice when she did it and I think it was her way of saying that she had moved on from upstairs and that she didn't mind that I didn't know her name."

Mr Jackson said that "after she touched my arm", he went upstairs again feeling she would follow him and they would continue were they had left off.

He said the pair were standing in the middle of the bedroom, slightly away from the bed and told the court that they "kissed for a bit standing" and then he said: "I backed a bit towards the bed." He said they continued kissing as he backed toward the bed and then he sat down and the pair continued kissing. From there, Mr Jackson said he went "from sitting" to "on my back" and then he said: "I shimmied up toward the headboard until I was on my back." He added: "It was quite passionate. We were both kissing each other." He then said: "It got a bit more passionate." He said that while he was lying on the bed "[the complainant] was on top of me" and she "started to bite my lower lip".

Mr Kelly asked if the bite was playful, hard, soft or nibbling, to which Mr Jackson replied: "It was playful but pretty hard. I remember trying to pull away." He added: "I remember my eyes started to water" and that "she wouldn't let go of my lip".

"Eventually I got free," Mr Jackson said, describing it as a relief. Then, he told the court: "She bit my lip again. I thought 'oh no, she has got my lip again!'"

A number of onlookers in the public gallery laughed at this.

Then Mr Jackson said the complainant moved to kissing the side of his neck. He described how, from his neck, she then went down and undid his trousers, with some help from him, and pulled them down to his thighs and knees. "My trousers and boxers both came down," he added.

Mr Jackson said: "Once she touched my penis and put it in her mouth I was erect."

He said oral sex was performed in a "normal" fashion. On whether the complainant was enjoying it, he said: "Well she was doing it. She was doing it to me. So she must [have been]."

Asked what happened when the oral sex came to a halt, Mr Jackson said: "That's when Stuart walked into the room." Mr Jackson said: "He walked in on us so it was a bit embarrassing so I kind of smiled" and then "waved at him". Mr Jackson added: "It's stupid but that's what happened."

Mr Jackson said it was "kind of 'eh, hi, look what's happening".

Asked what the complainant's reaction was, Mr Jackson said he presumed she would stop but that he didn't know. Mr Jackson described how Mr Olding then walked over and there was an interaction between him and the complainant. Mr Jackson said: "Her attention went from me to Stuart."

Because his trousers had already been undone, Mr Jackson said that when he moved to the end of the bed he then "kicked them off".

At this stage, he said, the complainant was still fully clothed. Mr Jackson said: "I turned around and she was performing oral sex" on the bed with Mr Olding on his back. He said he then "pulled her trousers down to her knees" and then "I started touching her with my hands."

He said that at this stage he didn't think he would have been "fully erect". Asked about penile sex, Mr Jackson said: "I thought it was leading to that." Asked why it didn't, Mr Jackson said: "Because she asked for a condom."

Mr Jackson said a search of his drawers yielded no contraception. Asked if he "nonetheless" continued to have penile sex with the woman, Mr Jackson said: "No, I didn't. I continued to touch her with my hands."

Mr Kelly put it to him that when Dara Florence walked into the room, she says she saw Mr Jackson at one end of the bed having penile penetration with the woman, while she was performing oral sex with Mr Olding on the other end of the bed. Mr Jackson said: "She's wrong. She's mistaken."

He said that when Ms Florence came in, he was touching the complainant with his hands.

Mr Kelly put it to Mr Jackson that Ms Florence did not see his penis and asked him where it was, other than "obviously" between his legs. Mr Jackson replied: "I don't know what she saw but I was not having sex with her."

Mr Kelly asked Mr Jackson: "Did you penetrate her?"

Mr Jackson replied: "With my hand, with my fingers."

"How many fingers?" asked Mr Kelly. "Two," replied Mr Jackson. Asked if he was aware of blood, he said: "Yes, I saw a bit of blood on my fingers."

Mr Kelly asked: "A lot or a little?" and then asked if it was "flowing" or "stained".

Mr Jackson said: "Just a bit on my fingers." He added that they "weren't covered in blood".

Mr Jackson added: "I thought it was something to do with her period," which he said he didn't address because he felt it "would have been a bit embarrassing for the both of us".

Asked if the blood seemed associated with pain in any way, Mr Jackson said no. Asked what he would have done if he had felt it was associated with pain, Mr Jackson said: "I would have stopped," adding: "I would have asked if she was OK."

Mr Kelly put it to Mr Jackson that Ms Florence was 100pc sure she saw penile penetration, to which Mr Jackson said: "I couldn't believe it" when he heard.

He said he thought "it was shocking". He said he could not understand why Ms Florence would say that and that it was only when listening to her in court that he felt he could understand how she had come to what he claimed was an inaccurate conclusion.

Mr Kelly pointed out that Mr Jackson had denied any allegation of penile rape in his first police interview. He asked Mr Jackson if he had seen the results of the forensic tests before that interview, to which Mr Jackson replied: "No, I didn't."

Asked if there was any resistance by the complainant to inserting his fingers inside her, Mr Jackson replied: "No."

Asked if there was any movement away by her during that activity, Mr Jackson said: "No."

Asked if Mr Olding's hands were on her head or forcing her head toward Mr Olding's midriff during oral sex, Mr Jackson again replied: "No."

Asked if Mr Jackson himself was forcing her head toward Mr Olding, Mr Jackson replied: "No, I wouldn't do that."

Asked if he put his fist inside her, Mr Jackson said he didn't, adding: "It is revolting. I would never even think of doing something like that. It's just horrible."

Mr Jackson said Mr Olding left the bedroom and, at that stage, he and the complainant were "both lying on the bed together" and that he presumed she was going to be staying.

Mr Jackson said he hadn't ejaculated at that stage. He said "we lay on the bed together" and "we were very close". He said "it wasn't in any way sexual" and that "we were not holding each other", but he said "my hand would have been on her thigh" and he said that "she was touching me".

Asked how he was feeling after the encounter, Mr Jackson said "I was knackered" and "I was drunk" and that it was "very late or very early". He told the court: "I was happy", adding: "I was so happy to be in my own bed."

Asked if anyone else, other than he and the complainant, was in the room at that stage, Mr Jackson replied: "No."

Asked about where the woman was when he went to go downstairs, he said: "She was still in my room."

Mr Jackson said he went downstairs to check the house. He said he went into the living room to make sure the music speaker and the lights were all turned off. He claimed he was turning off the lights when he heard "high heels" walking across the tiled hallway floor.

That is when, he said, he saw "the back of [the complainant's] head walking out" of the door.

He told the court: "That is the last time I saw her.

"If I had seen she was upset I would have gone to check on her."

He went to check that the door was locked. He said that after that: "I literally went straight up to bed."

Asked by Mr Kelly if he saw Mr McIlroy involved in oral sex with the complainant, Mr Jackson answered: "No."

Asked if he saw him naked or in his bedroom with the woman, Mr Jackson said no, that he had no memory of it.

Asked about his feelings if he had seen the complainant upset, Mr Jackson said: "The last thing I want is anyone upset," adding: "The last thing I would want is any girl leaving my house crying." He said he would have been "freaked out".

Mr Jackson said: "Literally I went straight to bed. I had no idea she was upset."

Mr Jackson said he was "happy" the following day. "I thought it was fine, I thought it was good," he said.

Mr Jackson was cross examined at length by Crown prosecutor Toby Hedworth QC.

Mr Hedworth said that after Ollie's, Mr Jackson and his three friends went back to his house with four "attractive young women" and said there must have been "an expectation of what the night would have in store."

Mr Hedworth spoke of alcohol reducing inhibitions and said it "makes people do things they wouldn't normally do. It makes people misinterpret situations and it makes people do unacceptable things that in the cold sober light of day they know they shouldn't have done, and that is what you did that night, isn't it Mr Jackson?"

Mr Jackson replied: "No, not at all."

Mr Hedworth then put it to Mr Jackson: "You had sexual intercourse with her. You forced yourself upon her, then you beckoned your friend Stuart Olding to join in, when she made it quite apparent to you that she didn't want any sexual activity with anyone."

Mr Jackson rejected this and said: "No, quite the opposite."

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