Northern Ireland news

Rugby rape trial: Man accused of naming woman at centre of case 'still out of jurisdiction'

West Belfast man Sean McFarland. Picture by Sunday Life

A man accused of revealing the name of a woman at the centre of a rape trial involving two rugby stars has been given more time to confirm if he is to fight the charge.

Sean McFarland (36) allegedly breached a lifetime ban on reporting the identity of the complainant in the case against former Ireland and Ulster players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.

Mr Jackson (26) and Mr Olding (25) were unanimously cleared of raping the woman following a high-profile trial in Belfast earlier this year.

Amid unprecedented public interest, concerns over social media commentary persisted throughout the 42-day criminal proceedings.

The complainant is entitled to anonymity for the rest of her life.

McFarland, of Rinnalea Gardens in the west of the city, is charged with publishing her name on a date between February 7-9 this year, in contravention of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992.

Read more: Rugby rape trial: Man accused of naming woman at centre of case stays away from court

He did not attend Belfast Magistrates' Court for today's hearing, where his lawyers were expected to announce his attitude to the allegation against him.

Defence solicitor Ciaran Toner said McFarland is still out of the jurisdiction.

Mr Toner also disclosed that a barrister has been consulted over what he described as "an unusual type of charge".

On that basis District Judge Amanda Henderson granted a further two-week adjournment to October 30.

Mr Jackson and Mr Olding were unanimously acquitted of raping the then 19-year-old woman at a party in Mr Jackson's house following a night out in Belfast in June 2016.

Blane McIlroy (26) was also unanimously cleared of a charge of exposure, while Rory Harrison (25) was unanimously found not guilty of perverting the course of justice and withholding information at the same trial.

(l-r) Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding, Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison. Pictures by Hugh Russell 

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