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Juror could be arrested over web comments about rape case

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Ulster and Ireland star Paddy Jackson addresses the media after his acquittal in Belfast on Wednesday. Photo: PA

Ulster and Ireland star Paddy Jackson addresses the media after his acquittal in Belfast on Wednesday. Photo: PA

Ulster and Ireland star Paddy Jackson addresses the media after his acquittal in Belfast on Wednesday. Photo: PA

The foreman of the jury in the Belfast rape trial could face arrest and a contempt of court charge over comments made online following the trial's verdict.

The remarks in the comment section of an online news article were made by somebody claiming to be a juror from the controversial case.

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Ireland and Ulster rugby player Stuart Olding with his solicitor Paul Dougan after he was found not guilty of rape. Pic:Mark Condren

Ireland and Ulster rugby player Stuart Olding with his solicitor Paul Dougan after he was found not guilty of rape. Pic:Mark Condren

Ireland and Ulster rugby player Stuart Olding with his solicitor Paul Dougan after he was found not guilty of rape. Pic:Mark Condren

The matter was referred to the Attorney General's (AG's) office in Northern Ireland by the Lord Chief Justice.

The Lord Chief Justice instructed the person to have these comments taken down immediately.

It is understood the AG's office is satisfied that the comments made on the Broadsheet.ie website were indeed written by a genuine juror.

A spokesperson said AG John Larkin is considering whether the comments are in contempt of court.

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Paddy Jackson walks from court on Wednesday a free man after being cleared of rape. Photo: Independent News & Media

Paddy Jackson walks from court on Wednesday a free man after being cleared of rape. Photo: Independent News & Media

Paddy Jackson walks from court on Wednesday a free man after being cleared of rape. Photo: Independent News & Media

The PSNI has said "we are aware of comments made on a social media platform".

Defended

However, the Herald understands that if action is taken on the comments, it will not be until next week at the earliest, with the AG's office being closed until Wednesday.

Broadsheet.ie said it has also been contacted by the PSNI.

Spokesman John Ryan def- ended naming the juror as "Shayna" on the site, stating that this was how they wanted to be referenced.

He added that Shayna had been a voluntary contributor on the site for about seven years.

When asked what the PSNI had contacted Broadsheet.ie in relation to, he said: "They wanted screen grabs of Shayna's comments since June of last year."

He said the website had contacted its hosting service.

A comment has been sought from the PSNI in relation to this matter by the Herald.

It is the latest twist in a trial that gripped the nation, and ended with the acquittal of the four defendants earlier this week.

Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were found not guilty at Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday of raping a then-19-year-old woman.

Mr Jackson (26) was also found not guilty of sexually assaulting the student.

The rugby players' close friend Blane McIlroy (26) was found not guilty of exposure.

A second friend, Rory Harrison (25), was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

The commenter - who has said they were the foreman in the trial - posted a statement on Broadsheet.ie yesterday in reference to their earlier comments.

"I received a phone call on Thursday from the office of The Lord Chief Justice in Belfast regarding comments I had made on Broadsheet.ie. I was asked if I had a lawyer, and was told that I am liable for arrest," they said.

"I was instructed to contact Broadsheet to take down any reference to myself in reg-ard to the 'Ulster Rugby Rape Trial' - I was the foreperson on the jury. Broadsheet reacted momentarily to comply."

The person added: "The comments I made referring to the case were within the parameters of the judge's discharge to all the jurors - the one thing she said was 'do not reveal conversations or discussions that occurred in the jury room'.

"Following my comments on Broadsheet, there is now an order, delivered to me yesterday, by the Judge, Patricia Smyth QC for the jury members to not comment on this case at all."

The juror could not be contacted for comment by the Herald.


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