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'They rely on your silence... rape is a game of power and control' - woman accusing rugby players of rape tells court

Young woman at the centre of the rape claims involving Ireland rugby player Paddy Jackson gives evidence in court

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Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding arriving at Belfast's Laganside courts.

Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding arriving at Belfast's Laganside courts.

Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding arriving at Belfast's Laganside courts.

THE young woman at the centre of the rape claims involving Ireland rugby player Paddy Jackson has told the trial at Belfast Crown Court that she decided to report it to the police because "rape is a game of power and control and they rely on your silence."

She said that maybe she could have prevented it from happening to someone else - like one of her friends or even her sister.

"It was the best decision I ever made," she said.

Giving evidence from behind a blue curtain, she was nevertheless shown on screen in the courtroom. With her hair in a ponytail, she wore a blue shirt and was deeply emotional throughout most of her testimony.

Paddy Jackson (26) of Oakleigh Park, Belfast and Stuart Olding (24) from Ardenlee Street, Belfast are each charged with rape in relation to the woman in south Belfast on June 28 2016.

Mr Jackson faces a further charge of sexual assault. Both deny the charges.

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Ulster and Ireland rugby player Paddy Jackson arrives at Laganside Court in Belfast this week. Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Ulster and Ireland rugby player Paddy Jackson arrives at Laganside Court in Belfast this week. Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

REUTERS

Ulster and Ireland rugby player Paddy Jackson arrives at Laganside Court in Belfast this week. Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Two other men have also been charged in relation to the incident. Blane McIlroy (26) from Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast denies one count of exposure.

Rory Harrison (25) from Manse Road Belfast denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

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Ireland and Ulster rugby player Stuart Olding arrives at Belfast Crown Court this week Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Ireland and Ulster rugby player Stuart Olding arrives at Belfast Crown Court this week Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

PA

Ireland and Ulster rugby player Stuart Olding arrives at Belfast Crown Court this week Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The four defendants sat together in the dock listening intently to the woman as she gave her account of what happened that night.

Brought through her evidence by Toby Hedworth QC for the Prosecution, the young woman told how she was 19 years old at the time of the alleged incident.

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Ireland rugby player Paddy Jackson arrives at court. Photos: Clodagh Kilcoyne

Ireland rugby player Paddy Jackson arrives at court. Photos: Clodagh Kilcoyne

REUTERS

Ireland rugby player Paddy Jackson arrives at court. Photos: Clodagh Kilcoyne

She had been living in Belfast with her family and had just completed her "A level resits" she told the court.

She is now an undergraduate at university.

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Ulster Rugby's Iain Henderson and Rory Best pictured at Laganside Magistrates Court in Belfast this morning. (Photo: Pacemaker)

Ulster Rugby's Iain Henderson and Rory Best pictured at Laganside Magistrates Court in Belfast this morning. (Photo: Pacemaker)

Ulster Rugby's Iain Henderson and Rory Best pictured at Laganside Magistrates Court in Belfast this morning. (Photo: Pacemaker)

On the evening in question, she and her friends had been celebrating the end of exams and went to a friend's house for a "pre" - explaining to the court that this means pre-night drinks.

She had a large glass and a half of wine there before going on to Ollies nightclub in the basement of the Merchant Hotel.

She remained there until closing time and had "about three double vodkas" during that time.

At closing time she recalls exiting the club and was standing outside with others when it was suggested that an after-party was happening. This wasn't unusual to end up at a student's house or something like that, she explained.

She did not recall hearing whose party it was or where it would be.

Paddy Jackson was behind a group of girls who were friends of a mutual friend and she said she didn't realise it was at his house but she knew he had been there.

She had seen him once before when she did some promotional work handing out pints of Guinness at a bar some months before - possibly the preceding November, she said.

One of the men had told her that night that "Paddy likes Guinness" and she had looked up to register who she was to give the pint of Guinness to.

Outside the nightclub, taxis had arrived to take people to the house party and she travelled in a taxi with Mr Jackson and two other girls.

Back at the house, there were four males and four females in all, including herself, she said.

She did not know Stuart Olding's name and didn't speak to him, nor did she know who Blane McIlroy was but she spoke to Rory Harrison the most, she said.

She had been expecting some of her friends to come back and had sent a text to one girl saying where she was.

However "it was by no means a party," she told the court, explaining that only background music was playing and she got up to dance when an Arctic Monkeys song came on. She drank no alcohol at the house.

At one stage, she and Paddy Jackson went upstairs - she thought it was to his bedroom -and they began to kiss. It was completely consensual but instigated by Paddy Jackson, she said.

However, he attempted to undo her trousers and she told him she wasn't interested so they went back downstairs.

Asked if he had attempted to take matters further, she shook her head emphatically, saying: "no."

After a while, she decided to leave, she told the court.

She had realised that she had left her clutch bag upstairs and went up to get it. It was on a side board in the room.

The next thing she remembered was Paddy Jackson being at the foot of the bed, she said.

She said you might think you would "kick and fight and scream but it doesn't work that way," she told the court, adding: "You literally freeze."

"I knew what was going to happen," she said.

She told the court she couldn't move because she had white trousers on and they were tight and had caught on her knees; "I couldn't actually move," she said.

"After that it went so quickly," said the girl.

Asked if he had said anything to her, she shook her head, saying "no".

"I'd already told him verbally no," she said.

"Nothing about me was physically telling him to keep going," she said.

"He already knew I didn't want this to happen and he kept going."

She said the next thing she recalled was the door opening and Stuart Olding walked into the room.

"My heart just sank. I knew what was going to happen," she said.

She said she looked into Mr Jackson's eyes and said, "please not him as well."

She claimed Mr Olding forced her to give him oral sex.

She claimed the door opened again and she looked around and heard a female voice. She said she turned her head quickly because she said: "I was worried I was going to be filmed or something because they were all taking photos downstairs."

"She opened the door and said 'oh'," she said, adding that Mr Jackson had asked the other girl if shes wanted to stay but she said no and shut the door.

She wept as she told the court of being further assaulted by Mr Jackson, saying she had attempted to make him stop.

Then the door opened again and she looked over and it was Blane McIlroy (26), she claimed, standing there "completely naked, holding his penis in his hands".

"I thought this is not happening again," she told the court, saying she got off the bed and grabbed her clothes.

She recalled asking Mr Jackson if he had used a condom and pulled on her trousers so quickly that she did not even put on her underwear but put them in her pocket.

She claimed Mr McIlroy had said: "You f***** the other guys why not me?" and said his whole stance was "aggressive."

"At that point my fight instincts kicked in. There was not a chance it was going to happen again," she said.

"I remember shouting at him 'how many times does it take to say no before it sinks in?'" she said.

She ran downstairs and out of the house - but had to return because she had forgotten her phone and could not get home without it  because she needed to ring a taxi.

Running back inside, she went up to the bedroom and retrieved it. Nobody else was in the room at the time, she thought.

Running away from the house again, the front door opened and Rory Harrison came out. She panicked initially but then realised he was asking if she was ok.

"I obviously wasn't ok. I was crying a lot. I don't know if he knew what had happened but he would've seen the blood on my trousers," she said.

She said they walked to the top of the road to get a taxi.

Mr Hedworth QC asked how she was at that point and the girl replied: "I was an absolute mess. I was crying."

She recalled asking Mr Harrison who Blane McIlroy was because she didn't know if she would be able to identify him.

In the taxi she had said something like: "It should've have happened or it shouldn't have happened to a girl like me."

"I can't remember the conversation I was so upset," she said.

She said she had "absolutely no complaints" about Mr Harrison because "he didn't lay a finger on me," and that he wouldn't take any money for a taxi.

He had asked if she would be ok and if there were people in her house.

She arrived home at about 5.15am going by the time on the CCTV still of her walking up her drive, Mr Hedworth stated.

She said Mr Harrison had asked for her number and she thought he had messaged her straightaway telling her to 'keep my chin up.'

There was another message that did not open and she thought it was music, she said.

Asked if she felt she could share what had happened with her parents, she said: "Not at all, no" and broke down in court.

She had told two close friends by text what had happened and they had told her to report it to the police but she said she felt she could not.

"You just don't think they're going to believe you," she said. She did not want people finding out what happened and she felt that if she went to the police she would have to stay it to her parents at some point. Her father had recently taken a heart attack, she said, adding that it had been a serious one.

"I just didn't want to say it to any of my family," she said.

She was trying to remain rational about it, she added, saying that she knew she needed to go and get checked out. She intended to get the morning after pill because she wasn't sure condoms were used. A couple of weeks later she got an STI screening.

Asked why she had reported the matter, she said; "The more I thought about it, rape is a game of power and control. They rely on your silence and the only way is you take the power back. You go to the police. I was going to do something about it," she said.

She said it could maybe have prevented it from happening to someone else.

"It could've been one of my friends or it could've been my sister outside Ollies. It was the best decision I have ever made [to report it]," she said.

However, before deciding this, she and her friend had googled a rape crisis facility in Belfast but drove in and could not find it.

She then went to a clinic for sexual assault to get the morning-after pill.

"At that time I was adamant I wasn't going to the police," she added.

At the intercom she asked for directions to the rape crisis centre and was asked if she had been raped. She replied that she had and was brought up and a meeting with a councillor was arranged and another meeting with a doctor to get checked out.

They arranged for a forensic medical appointment because they said they would keep her clothes and forensic samples for five years in case she ever wanted to report it in that time.

But the day after the alleged assault, she was going to the cinema with her friend to try and keep her mind off things and had the tickets but said "I can't stay."

"The whole thing is hard to process," she told the court.

"You try to keep yourself occupied, try to pretend it didn't happen."

However she had been told that the forensic samples on the men would deteriorate after 72 hours. "I said no, I have to do something," she said, adding that especially since she had been told at the clinic that she had internal damage.

"It's not ok. No one should have to go through what I went through," she said.

"I'm not going to stand for it."

She said she had initially believed she had started her period after the alleged assault but said she had not and that the doctor had told her she had an internal tear and that's why she was bleeding.

The hearing has been adjourned and cross-examination of the witness will begin tomorrow.

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