Saturday 21 September 2019

'This man was not going to help me. He was also going to rape me'

A woman who accuses two Ireland rugby players of assaulting her denies defence claims she willingly took part in group sex, writes Ashleigh McDonald

Accused: Ireland and Ulster rugby players Stuart Olding, pictured, and Paddy Jackson arrive at Belfast Crown Court where they are standing trial accused of raping the same woman in Mr Jackson’s bedroom in June 2016. Photo: PA Wire
Accused: Ireland and Ulster rugby players Stuart Olding, pictured, and Paddy Jackson arrive at Belfast Crown Court where they are standing trial accused of raping the same woman in Mr Jackson’s bedroom in June 2016. Photo: PA Wire

Ashleigh McDonald

The second week of a high-profile trial in Belfast, where two Ireland rugby players stand accused of rape, ended in quite an unusual manner.

Following a defence application last Thursday requesting that the jury members visit the scene of the alleged crime, the 12 members were bused from Laganside Court to Paddy Jackson's south Belfast home on Friday morning.

In the absence of any media and in the presence of trial judge Patricia Smyth, the nine men and three women of the jury were granted access to 26-year-old Mr Jackson's home, and bedroom.

The purpose of the visit, the jury were told by Judge Smyth, was "so you can see the layout of his house, the size of his house, and the proximity of the rooms in the house".

Although Friday's move isn't unprecedented in the North, it's rare that visits to the scenes of alleged sexual crimes take place.

The woman at the centre of the trial - which involves Mr Jackson, his Ireland and Ulster teammate Stuart Olding (24) and two other men - claims she was subjected to a sexual assault in Mr Jackson's bedroom following a night out in Belfast in June 2016.

Ireland and Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson arrives at Belfast Crown Court. Photo: PA Wire
Ireland and Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson arrives at Belfast Crown Court. Photo: PA Wire

Both men have been charged with rape, while Mr Jackson faces a further charge of sexual assault.

The pair deny all the charges, and claim the sexual activity was consensual.

Giving her account from behind a blue curtain at Belfast Crown Court, the 21-year-old has already been cross-examined by three defence barristers. She is due back in the witness box tomorrow when she will be questioned by a fourth barrister.

During last week's hearing, the woman claimed that, as a then 19-year-old, she was "treated like a piece of meat" by Mr Jackson and Mr Olding. She also denied suggestions that she willingly engaged in group sex and lied in the aftermath to protect her reputation.

Charges: Blane McIlroy, pictured, has been charged with, and denies, exposing his genitals. Photo: PA
Charges: Blane McIlroy, pictured, has been charged with, and denies, exposing his genitals. Photo: PA

The start of last Monday's proceedings was delayed owing to legal arguments and the judge addressing the jury on media coverage surrounding the presence of Ireland captain Rory Best. He was seen in the public gallery the week before, which attracted attention both on mainstream and social media.

The jury was told: "You may have been aware of press coverage or coverage of some nature about the appearance at this trial of Mr Rory Best, who I understand is the captain of the Ireland Rugby team.

"I want to make it absolutely clear to you, and I want to make it clear to the public, the only reason Mr Rory Best was in this court last week was because he was directed to be here by senior counsel."

After addressing the jury, Judge Smyth ordered that the trial resume, and the woman at the centre of the case confirmed she consensually kissed Mr Jackson prior to the alleged sexual assault - but said "that's not indicative of consent for anything else".

Rory Harrison has been charged with, and denies, perverting the course of justice. Photo: PA
Rory Harrison has been charged with, and denies, perverting the course of justice. Photo: PA

She has already told the jury that she kissed Mr Jackson once upstairs, returned back to the party, but went back upstairs to retrieve her bag as she wanted to go home. She claimed that at this point, she was raped by Mr Jackson, before being forced to perform oral sex on Mr Olding.

When asked again about this kiss by Mr Jackson's barrister, Brendan Kelly QC, she agreed it was consensual. She claimed Mr Jackson instigated the kiss, and when asked if it was a "proper kiss", she told Mr Kelly "to be honest he sort of lunged at me".

She added: "It didn't last long before he started to try and undo my trousers. It wasn't that passionate."

She also rejected a suggestion from Mr Kelly that Mr Jackson left the bedroom first because he "became tired" of her teasing him. Instead, she said she went back downstairs after he tried to undo her trousers.

When the woman was questioned about the alleged rape, and when she was asked if the incident started with a second consensual kiss between her and Mr Jackson, she said: "That's completely incorrect."

She said Mr Jackson "wasn't taking no for an answer", that "everything about me was saying no physically", and "you cannot underestimate how scared you are in those situations".

When Mr Kelly proposed that the activity between her and Mr Jackson amounted to "mutual sexual touching", she answered: "That is completely incorrect."

Mr Kelly then said: "Within a short period of time, Stuart Olding opened the door and entered the room. Why did you not say to Stuart Olding 'Paddy Jackson is raping me, can you help?'" She replied: "Because it was obvious what Stuart Olding's intention was as well."

She denied she "motioned" toward Mr Olding then performed oral sex on him, saying "that wasn't how it worked out", and reiterated her claim that any activity in the bedroom was "non-consensual".

The trial didn't sit last Tuesday, but on Wednesday the woman was back in the witness box, where she rejected suggestions she "ran with a lie" after she was witnessed having consensual group sex. She said that any inconsistencies given to the doctor in the aftermath of the incident were down to being in a state of shock after she was raped.

A girl who also attended the party at the house walked into the bedroom - and it's alleged that Mr Jackson asked if she wanted to "join in".

The woman admitted she was petrified this girl had taken a photograph when she opened the bedroom door, as she and her friends had been taking selfies with the rugby players at the party downstairs.

When asked about this, she said this was "secondary" as she had already been raped, but admitted she turned her head away in case the girl had taken a photograph.

Mr Kelly suggested this concern was more to do with what this girl had seen, and the possibility of rumours or images appearing on social media.

When it was put to her that "in an intoxicated and excited state... you that night engaged of your own choice in sexual activity", she said: "I completely reject that," and added: "Mr Kelly, I was raped. I don't think I can make myself more clear."

Mr Kelly suggested that she may have believed the girl who entered the bedroom "witnessed group sex" which she may then have had posted on social media. The woman replied: "Mr Kelly, again, I was raped. It was not consensual group activity at all."

Accusing the woman of later concocting claims she had been raped, Mr Jackson's barrister asked: "You were petrified that either the rumour or the proof of this sexual activity would find its way to your friends, and that's what drove you on as far as running with this lie, is it not?"

Rejecting this, the woman said: "No, this is not a lie, Mr Kelly."

She was also asked about texts she sent to friends on the morning and afternoon of June 28, 2016.

She ended a text she sent her friend telling her she had been raped with three upside-down smiling emoji faces. When she was asked about these emojis, she said it signified mixed emotions.

She added that at that time "everything is going through your head - why did it happen to me? What did I do to deserve it?"

When it was suggested that the first friend she contacted was a girl who was mutual friends with the group of girls back at the party, and who would therefore be likely to be the first to hear a rumour or see something on social media, she replied: "No, that's an entirely twisted mindset and thought process you have just laid out there. That's not what I was thinking or feeling."

Frank O'Donoghoe, the barrister representing Mr Olding, also cross-examined the woman, and she maintained that she was forced to perform oral sex on Mr Olding while being raped by Mr Jackson.

When asked why she didn't ask Mr Olding to assist when he walked into the bedroom by saying "help me, I'm being raped and I'm going to be raped again", she replied: "It was quite clear what Mr Olding's intention was as well. So much so that I turned to Patrick Jackson and said 'please not him as well'. This man was not going to help me. He was also going to rape me."

Accepting that Mr Olding didn't verbally order her to perform oral sex, she said "there were no words exchanged... there was no consent established".

When Mr O'Donoghoe claimed that Mr Olding had come into Mr Jackson's bedroom "to crash out" but instead found her and Mr Jackson "having sex", she countered: "Why did he rape me then? Those are not the actions of someone who came in to crash out."

Mr Olding's barrister further claimed that she "beckoned" him to stay, and "he did stay and you performed oral sex on him quite voluntarily and quite consensually". She replied: "I completely refute everything you have just said."

She was then asked about the version of events she recounted to a doctor at the Rowan Centre, on the evening of June 28, 2016.

Mr O'Donoghoe said at no point did she mention that she had been orally raped. Instead, the barrister said, she told the medic she had been vaginally raped three times.

She replied by saying that during the incident there were stages she didn't know who was behind her raping her, and that she couldn't remember all the details of the medical owing to her shocked state.

When asked if she was exaggerating her state to explain an "utterly inconsistent history" given to the doctor, she told Mr O'Donoghoe: "You are underestimating a state of shock you go into after you have been raped."

Regarding a third man facing charges arising from the alleged incident, the woman said she had "absolutely no complaint", adding: "He took me home and I'm grateful for that."

Rory Harrison has been charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information. The 25-year-old denies the charges.

She told Mr Harrison's barrister, Gavan Duffy QC, that she felt his actions in the aftermath of the alleged incident were "quite genuine".

Mr Harrison took the woman home in a taxi, and she agreed with Mr Duffy that he had done "absolutely nothing wrong". She also confirmed he had comforted her on the way home in the taxi when she was "extremely upset".

After ensuring she got home around 5.15am, Mr Harrison sent the woman a text telling her "keep the chin up you wonderful young woman", to which she replied: "Thank you so much for leaving me home, I really appreciate it Rory, you've been far too kind."

And when Mr Harrison texted her at around noon, asking is she was feeling better, she texted back: "To be honest, no. I know you must be mates with those guys but I don't like them. And what happened was not consensual, which is why I was so upset. Again, thank you for taking me home. That was really appreciated."

For the first time in the trial, the court heard that Mr Harrison's response to that text was "Jesus". He sent her another text shortly afterwards, which said "I am not sure what to say".

When Mr Duffy asked the woman if the text gave an impression this came as "something of a surprise" to Mr Harrison, she answered: "It would seem to appear that way, yes."

The trial, which is due to enter its third week, is set to resume tomorrow, when the woman will take to the witness box for the last time.

She is due to be cross-examined by Arthur Harvey QC, who is representing 26-year-old Blane McIlroy. He has been charged with, and denies, exposing his genitals.

The woman has accused Mr McIlroy of walking into the bedroom, stark naked with his penis in his hand, after she had been raped by Mr Jackson and Mr Olding, and of acting in an aggressive manner towards her.

She said at this point, fearing she would be subjected to a further sexual assault, her fight instinct kicked in and she fled the room.

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