Jury in Ulster rugby rape trial told 'consent' is the headline in the case

Paddy Jackson arriving at court. Picture by Pacemaker Belfast

A JURY at the trial of two Ulster rugby players accused of rape were told that what happened in the bedroom of Paddy Jackson's south Belfast home was "a throwback to the days of male entitlement."

As he summed up the Crown's case to the jury of eight men and three women, prosecuting barrister Toby Hedworth QC said it didn't matter what school the defendants went to, or how successful their rugby careers were.

Rather, the barrister said, what was important was that "overbearing drunk young men ... with their passions raised", used a then 19-year old for their own sexual gratification even through they knew "she didn't consent, but they simply were not interested."

However in summing up later a lawyer for Mr Jackson said the Crown's version what occurred was "flawed with inconsistencies, flawed to its core"

The jury at the trial, now in its seventh week, has heard the 21-year old complainant make the case that while attending a party at Mr Jackson's Oakleigh Park home following a night out in the VIP section at Ollie's nightclub in Belfast, she was raped by Mr Jackson while being forced to perform a sex act on his Ulster rugby teammate Stuart Olding.

Mr Olding (24), from Ardenlee Street and Mr Jackson both deny rape, while 26-year old Mr Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault. The pair claim any activity was consensual.

The complainant also claimed that as this attack was coming to an end, Blane McIlroy appeared in the bedroom, naked and demanding sex. He has been charged with, and denies, exposure.

Addressing the jury Mr Hedworth said: "The law of this land says that a young woman is allowed to say no and any such no not only should be heeded but it must be heeded."

"The world has moved on. Unfortunately the behaviour of some in our society has not. What happened in the bedroom of Patrick Jackson's bedroom in the early hours of Tuesday the 28 of June represents, we say, a throwback to the days of male entitlement."

Saying this case was not about gender politics, Mr Hedworth said the crux of the trial was about the conduct of Jackson, Olding and McIlroy against a woman whose views were not sought.

The prosecutor also spoke of Rory Harrison's conduct in the aftermath of the incident.

The 25-year old, from Manse Road, has been charged with and denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Mr Hedworth said that rather than being a knight in shining armour who came to the woman's assistance and brought her home, he was more concerned about impeding the police investigation and protecting his friends.

Also rejecting the defence's assertion that the woman was "trying to bag a celebrity" Mr Hedworth reminded the jury the complainant made it clear she was not interested in either Northern Ireland footballers or Ulster rugby players.

In his summary to the jury, Mr Hedworth asked the members to consider the vastly differing versions of events given by all four defendants.

And while he accepted there were inconsistencies in the accounts the woman gave in the aftermath of the incident, Mr Hedworth said this was not uncommon with rape victims who often experience "misguided shame, trauma and shock."

The prosecutor asked then to consider the evidence of the taxi driver who picked Mr Harrison and the young woman up, and who noted a female sobbing and crying throughout the journey.

He asked them to consider the 1cm tear to the woman's vaginal wall, and also to consider why the woman's first concern was obtaining the morning after pill - despite the defendant's claims that sex did not take place.

Following Mr Hedworth's submissions, the jury was then addressed by Brendan Kelly QC, the barrister representing Mr Jackson, who branded the Crown case "flawed to its core."

Asking the jury "can you be sure that what started life as an allegation and is now a charge can be proven?", Mr Kelly said it was not a case of suspecting or guessing, but they have to ask themselves "am I sure? ... that's what it boils down to."

The defence barrister told them: "If you are sure, without hesitation, it is your duty to convict. If you are less than sure, it is your duty to acquit."

Pointing out the issue in this case was one of consent, Mr Kelly said "drunken consent is still consent", adding the trial "is not a court of morals" and should not be judged on "emotion or sympathy."

He told the jury: "We may all have daughters, we may all be fathers, but that's not what this is about. This case is whether or not they, the prosecution, have brought evidence upon which you can be sure..."

Mr Kelly spoke of the young woman who opened the door of Mr Jackson's bedroom and said she saw a threesome. She also told the jury while giving evidence that Mr Jackson asked if she wanted to join in, which she declined.

Mr Jackson's barrister asked the jury to consider what would have happened if she had agreed. He asked "is it really the Crown's case that half the bed would have been consenting and the other half not?"

The lawyer also spoke of the "black hole" in the case - the events surrounding the first visit to the bedroom. The complainant said there was consensual kissing with Jackson in his bedroom which ended when he tried to pull her trousers down.

However, while Mr Jackson confirmed kissing did take place in his bedroom, he claimed it stopped when she asked his name, and he said he didn't know it.

Regarding the second visit - when she claimed she was raped by both men - Mr Kelly said there were elements of her evidence which were "plain wrong."

One such element, Mr Kelly suggested, was when she later told a friend in a text she was able to make escape from the room when one of her attackers got off her. This, Mr Kelly said, was a lie.

Pointing out there were "eight adults" in the house that could have come to her assistance, Mr Kelly reminded the jury that when she was giving evidence, the complainant "made it quite clear ... she was petrified about this getting out. Not scared, not anxious, but petrified this would get out."

The barrister continued: "She described herself as being frozen. You know how noise travels in that house. You have seen it with your own eyes, yet not so much as a yell."

Reiterating the point that consent was the "the headline" in the trial Mr Kelly asked the jury "have the prosecution proven a lack of consent."

Read more: Drunken consent is still consent, Paddy Jackson's barrister tells jury

What happened represents a throwback to the days of male entitlement, jury told

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