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Ulster Rugby rape trial juror comments `now a civil matter'

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald called for rape defendants to be anonymous in the north. Picture by Hugh Russell

THE Attorney General's investigation into potential contempt of court by a juror in the Ulster Rugby rape trial is "now a civil matter".

The jury foreperson went back onto the website where they made the original comments about the case to tell readers that they had been visited by police to advise her that the inquiry is a civil one.

This means that they are not facing a jail term if found to have been in contempt of court with their postings on Broadsheet.ie.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) referred the matter to Lord Chief Justice (LCJ) Declan Morgan after learning of the initial post in the aftermath of the verdict last week in which the juror answered comments made by others on the website about the trial.

The LCJ referred the matter to Attorney General John Larkin and made police aware of the posting.

Meanwhile a Drogheda United player, who sent a tweet using a derogatory term to refer to the woman at the centre of the rape trial, has apologised and donated his future season's earnings to a rape crisis charity.

Luke Rossiter (19) said he was "deeply sorry".

"The truth is I don't really know why I did it as I have no reasoning behind it," he said in a statement, describing it as "a stupid and immature thing to do".

"I have hurt and let my family, club, manager, team-mates and the Drogheda fans down and I'm sure many more... It is clear I still have some growing up to do in relation to how I conduct myself off the pitch as well as on it.

"If the club and fans can forgive me I would like to start that growing by donating any money that I receive from Drogheda United for the remainder of the season to the Rape Crisis North East."

His club said it is conducting an internal investigation.

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said "victims of sexual assault, north and south require support, protection and respect for their rights".

"Consideration should be given to ensure that victims of sexual violence do not face a hostile adversarial process without appropriate legal advice, protection and representation," she said.

"It is completely unacceptable that cases heard in courts in the north can be turned into a voyeuristic circuses with extensive media reporting and general public access. This level of access and reporting jeopardises the anonymity of the complainant."

She called for defendants to be anonymous in the north.

The review of the Republic's rape trial was welcomed by the National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI).

Coordinator Cliona Loughnane, said the Belfast case "has highlighted the urgent need to ensure all parts of the criminal justice system, from the Courts, to the Judges, to the Gardaí, are supporting women who report rape".

"We have had repeated criticism from international human rights bodies of our high attrition rates, and NWCI looks forward to meeting with the Minister for Justice."

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