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Rugby rape trial: Defence lawyer asks why complainant 'did not scream the house down?'

Stuart Olding attends court in Belfast, Picture by Hugh Russell.

A BARRISTER for Ireland and Ulster rugby player Stuart Olding told a jury yesterday that his client was "undoubtedly" telling the truth - "warts and all."

Now in its eighth week, the trial at Belfast Crown Court involving Mr Olding, teammate Paddy Jackson and two other men is now in the stages of closing submissions.

Addressing the jury on behalf of his 25 year-old client, barrister Frank O'Donoghue criticised both the police and Public Prosecution Service (PPS), and also suggested the evidence given by the woman at the centre of the claim was "totally unreliable."

Mr Olding, from Ardenlee Street in Belfast, has been charged with and has denied forcing the complainant to perform a sex act on him in Mr Jackson's Oakleigh Park bedroom after a night out in the VIP section of Ollie's nightclub in Belfast city centre.

Mr Olding claimed any sexual activity in the early hours of Tuesday June 28, 2016 was consensual.

It is the Crown's case that at some point while being raped from behind by Mr Jackson, Mr Olding entered the room and the woman was forced to perform a sex act on him.

Pointing out that the crux of the case was consent, Mr O'Donoghue told the jury there was no forensic evidence to support the woman's claim.

Urging the jury to consider "very very carefully indeed" the complainant's credibility, Mr O'Donoghue said: "Don't judge the book by the cover. Don't assume that because an account appears plausible, it must therefore be true."

Accusing the woman's account as being "utterly unreliable", Mr O'Donoghue spoke of the different version of events she gave to a doctor, then to police.

He also told the jury that on June 30, when the woman gave her interview, there were more than a dozen questions - "no matter how uncomfortable" - that police should have asked her.

He also questioned why police did not ask her why she didn't scream.

Telling the jury there were "middle class girls downstairs, they were not going to tolerate a rape of anything else", the barrister asked "why did she not scream the house down?"

Mr Olding's barrister branded the woman's evidence as "completely devoid of relevant and essential details and said the allegations against his client were "at best poor and at worst virtually non-existent."

Rejecting suggestions Mr Olding was part of a cover-up conspiracy in the aftermath of the incident, the barrister also pointed out that much of the account given to police by Mr Olding was actually backed up by the complainant when she gave evidence in court - including several interruptions during the act such as her taking her top off.

Rory Harrison on the way into court n Belfast Picture by Hugh Russell.

Telling the jury "it's hardly to his benefit to inform police he had 20 alcoholic drinks" prior to events in the bedroom, Mr O'Donoghue said that during interview Mr Olding "didn't contradict himself" but rather told the truth "warts and all."

Addressing the text and WhatsApp messages exchanged with friends in the hours after the incident, Mr O'Donoghoe accepted his client "started to act the big lad to brag to his friends on social media, using language I'm sure he's not proud of."

Saying these messages were private and on his own phone, Mr O'Donoghue accepted that while the contents were "unattractive", there was nothing to suggest he had involved himself in non-consensual activity.

He told the jury of eight men and three women: "Stuart Olding is innocent of this charge and I implore you to do your duty in this case and acquit."

Next to address the jury was Arthur Harvey QC, who represents Blane McIlroy. The 26-year old, from Royal Lodge Road in Belfast, denies a charge of exposure.

Telling the jury that when arrested in June 2016 McIlroy was one semester short of completing a university degree in America, Mr Harvey branded the case as a "tragedy" for everyone involved.

Last week the jury was asked to consider whether or not the four men on trial were "liars or legends."

However, Mr Harvey said this was not the case as "that does not answer the primary function you are here to fulfil ... and that is to determine whether or not Mr McIlroy and his co-defendants are guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the charges that they face."

In her evidence, the complainant said after she was attacked by Mr Jackson and Mr Olding, a naked McIlroy appeared in the room and demanded sex.

Mr Harvey also referred to one of the party goers who opened the bedroom door and gave evidence that she saw a consensual threesome.

Regarding what he called "indiscrepencies" in the complainant's account he told the jury: "The simple thing, in literature and life, is that lies don't start off, necessarily, as a malicious intent to cause real damage to others.

Paddy Jackson on the way into court in Belfast yesterday Picture by Hugh Russell.

"But lies build on lies. If you have a sense you are about to be shamed on a network to which your friends access, the first reaction is 'how do you deal with the shame?' Mostly, it's 'how do I save face?'

Mr Harvey said her reaction was one of being mortified of the consequences of having her image uploaded onto social media, as she feared the woman at the door had taken a picture of the scene in the bedroom.

Regarding the woman's allegations against Mr McIlroy, Mr Harvey spoke of "significant differences" in accounts she gave to different people.

Mr Harvey insisted his client had told the truth.

"Mr McIlroy has told the truth. The truth is simply not compatible with the account of (the complainant) and (the complainant) as we know has a memory which is fragmented - she accepted that - and alcohol is a ready explanation for that."

He also asked the jury: "What rational, reasonable, sensible, intelligent individual would present themselves in a police station to give an account, before he knew what any of the allegations were, specifically against him?

"To incriminate himself to a potentially much more serious charge, quite simply, it does not bear examination."

Mr Harvey also mentioned the texts, and said that while the defendants were braggarts, they weren't rapists.

Telling the jury their verdict "will affect a young man for the rest of his life", Mr Harvey asked if they were sure beyond reasonable doubt of his guilt.

Blane McIlroy on the way into court in Belfast Picture By Hugh Russell.

The case will sit again today when Gavan Duffy QC, the barrister representing Rory Harrison (25) , will be the fourth and and final defence barrister to address the jury.

From Manse Road in Belfast, Mr Harrison has been charged with, and denies, perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Arthur Harvey QC at Belfast Crown Court today where he was addressing the 'rugby rape' trial jury as the case entered its' final phase

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