Northern Ireland news

Man denies revealing name of woman at centre of rugby rape trial, court hears

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 players is to contest the charge, it was confirmed today.

Sean McFarland's lawyer told Belfast Magistrates Court he is pleading not guilty to breaching 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 earlier this year.

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

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

McFarland (36) of Rinnalea Gardens in west Belfast, is charged with publishing her name on a date between February 7-9 this year, in contravention of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992.

He did not attend court for today's hearing to determine his attitude to the allegation against him. Defence solicitor Ciaran Toner confirmed McFarland's not guilty plea.

A date for the trial is now expected to be set later this month.

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 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. 

 Stuart Olding (left) and Paddy Jackson 

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