Northern Ireland news

Man accused of naming rugby rape trial woman on social media to be prosecuted

(l-r) Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding, Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison. Photos: Hugh Russell 
David Young, Press Association

A man is to be prosecuted for allegedly using social media to name the woman at the centre of a rape trial involving two rugby stars.

Former Ireland and Ulster players Paddy Jackson (26) and Stuart Olding (25) were acquitted of raping the woman after a high-profile trial in Belfast earlier this year.

Both men were subsequently sacked by club and country for involvement in explicit WhatsApp chats that were revealed during the marathon trial and are now playing for teams in France.

Complainants in rape and other sex crime cases are entitled to life-long anonymity.

The man is accused of naming the woman in the Jackson and Olding case on social media during the course of the eight-week trial. He is due to appear in court later in the year.

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He was one of two people investigated for alleged breaches of the anonymity law, but prosecutors in Northern Ireland said they will not be pursuing the other case due to "insufficient evidence".

"The Public Prosecution Service can confirm it has taken a decision to prosecute one person in relation to an allegation of breaching the anonymity granted to a complainant in a high-profile rape trial," said a PPS spokeswoman.

"After a careful consideration of all evidence, it has been decided to prosecute that person on one charge of breaching the lifetime ban on reporting the identity of an alleged victim.

Paddy Jackson outside court in Belfast after being acquitted. Picture By Hugh Russell

"A second suspect reported separately by police for allegedly breaching the same complainant's identity will not be prosecuted after it was concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove any offence had been committed.

"In taking these decisions, senior prosecutors considered evidence received from police in relation to social media posts which were alleged to have potentially identified a complainant involved in trial proceedings which ran at Belfast Crown Court from January to March 2018."

After the trial, two other men, Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison, both 26, were also unanimously acquitted of lesser charges connected to the alleged incident at Jackson's house in June 2016.

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