Tuesday 18 December 2018

Ulster rugby rape trial jury agree to sit on Saturday 'to ensure trial remains on track'

From left to right, Ireland and Ulster player Paddy Jackson, 26, his team-mate Stuart Olding, 24, and third defendant Blane McIlroy, 26
From left to right, Ireland and Ulster player Paddy Jackson, 26, his team-mate Stuart Olding, 24, and third defendant Blane McIlroy, 26

Ashleigh McDonald

The high-profile trial involving two Ulster Rugby accused of rape did not sit today, due to a juror falling ill.

Last week a male juror was discharged from serving on the jury on medical grounds - and earlier today the trial was halted again due a second juror being unable to attend due to sickness.

The remaining members of the jury at Belfast Crown Court were told by Judge Patricia Smyth that at this stage it was not possible to say when the hearing will resume, but thanked them for agreeing to sit this weekend.

As the trial was due to move into the defence stage, the eight men and two women were called into court and told "one of your number is sick" and that enquiries that were being made "to ensure the trial remains on track."

Rory Harrison. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Rory Harrison. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Judge Smyth told the jury: "The juror will be in touch later this afternoon to confirm whether or not she is well enough to attend tomorrow, and you will be informed immediately whether or not you are required tomorrow.

"I cannot say at this stage when the trial will resume. That will depend on the juror."

Ireland and Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson. Photo: Michael Cooper/PA Wire
Ireland and Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson. Photo: Michael Cooper/PA Wire

After revealing the jurors have agreed to sit from 9am to noon this Saturday, Judge Smyth expressed her gratitude for their willingness to do so, which she said was "yet another infringement on your private lives."

Before allowing them to go for the day, Judge Smyth again issued a warning to the jurors not to speak to anyone about the case. She said: "Please do be on your guard and avoid situations where you think people might question you or put you under pressure. Just tell people you cannot talk about this trial."

Stuart Olding arrives at court. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Stuart Olding arrives at court. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson (26) from Oakleigh Park and 24-year old Stuart Olding, from Ardenlee Street, have both been charged with - and deny - rape, while Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.

Appearing alongside the pair are 26-year old Blane McIlroy, from Royal Lodge Road in Belfast, who has been charged with exposure, and Rory Harrison (25), who is facing charges of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Blane McIlroy
Blane McIlroy

They also deny the charges levelled against them.

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