Northern Ireland news

Rugby rape trial: 'A woman is entitled to decide what sex activity she wants, how far she is prepared to go and what she does not want to do'

Stuart Olding, Paddy Jackson, Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison all deny the charges they face

Jurors at the rape trial of two Irish rugby internationals could be sent out to deliberate on their verdict on Tuesday, a court has heard.

Judge Patricia Smyth told the eight men and three women she was approaching the end of her summing up at Belfast Crown Court.

She said "This will not take a long time tomorrow morning. Then you will be asked to go out and begin your deliberations."

The high-profile trial was originally scheduled for five weeks but has now entered its ninth week.

It has reached a "critical stage" according to Judge Smyth.

Dismissing the 11-person panel for the day, she repeated warnings to ignore press reports and social media coverage.

"Do not look at anything," said the judge. "Do not look at Twitter and do not discuss this case with even family or friends."

Paddy Jackson, 26, from Belfast's Oakleigh Park and his teammate Stuart Olding, 25, from Ardenlee Street in the city deny raping the same woman at a house in south Belfast on June 28, 2016.

Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.

Two other men have also been on trial on charges connected to the alleged incident.

Blane McIlroy, 26, from Royal Lodge Road, Belfast, denies exposure while Rory Harrison, 25, from Manse Road, denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Jurors were told it is for them to decide where the truth lies.

In her review of the evidence, Judge Smyth said the jury should not jump to any conclusions because those involved had been drunk.

She said: "You should consider all the evidence... You must not assume that because (the complainant) was drunk she must have wanted sex. People do go out and get drunk."

The judge later added: "It would be wrong to leap to a conclusion that because she was drunk she must have been looking for, or was willing, to have sex."

Jurors were also told to "bear in mind" explanations about the law on consent.

Judge Smyth said: "A woman is entitled to say no and to decide what sexual activity she wants, how far she is prepared to go, and what she does not want to do."

The reliability of all witnesses must be established and it is for jurors to determine whether memory lapses are "genuine" or "simply a convenient excuse" to avoid having to explain behaviour.

Referencing criticisms of the police investigation, Ms Smyth said all the evidence had been fully tested in court.

She told the jury: "It is important that you understand that it is on the basis of evidence you have heard whether you are sure of the defendants' guilt.

"Your function is not to sit in judgment of the competencies of the police or punish them for any perceived failures."

The task of the jury is to decide whether the prosecution has made them "sure" of the defendants' guilt, the court heard.

Ms Smyth added: "Please do not let yourselves be distracted from this task."

The timing of the complaint to police is also a matter of consideration, the judge said.

And it is for the jury to decide whether the defendants had been disadvantaged by the three-week delay in taking a second ABE (achieving best evidence) interview.

Meanwhile, jurors were reminded of evidence from a witness who had said she believed she had walked in on a threesome, not a rape.

"It is a matter for you," the judge said.

Addressing the issue of distress shown by the woman, jurors were told they must decide whether it was genuine or an act.

Judge Smyth said: "It is for you to decide whether (the complainant's) distress was because she had been raped and sexually penetrated with fingers without her consent.

"Or whether this was an act put on for her friends in case word got out she had been engaging in group sex."

The judge also instructed jurors to assess inconsistencies in evidence provided by the complainant during early accounts to friends, medics and police.

There was no mention of digital penetration, oral sex or the fact that a woman had walked in on the alleged attack, the court heard.

The judge said people who tell the truth may provide inconsistent accounts because memories can be affected in different ways.

She said: "After an event some people may go over and over it and as a result memory can become clearer.

"Other people may avoid trying to think about it and may have a difficulty recalling it accurately."

Equally, those who provide "manufactured" accounts may also "have difficulty being consistent".

"It may be an indicator that the account as a whole is untrue," said the judge.

Warnings to "be careful" when interpreting texts and other messages exchanged among all the young people involved in the trial were also given to the court.

Messages are often "shorthand", "incomplete in detail" and would not be composed with the same attention to detail as a police statement, the court heard.

"This applies to all the young people in this case," said Judge Smyth.

The case continues.

Read more:

Judge's first day of summing up - 'There is no stereotype for a rape, a rapist or a victim of rape'

What the prosecution has to prove

My client is not a weasel, Rory Harrison's barrister tells jury

Drunken consent is still consent, Paddy Jackson's barrister tells jury

There was no rape by my client, Stuart Olding's barrister tells jury

What happened was a throw back to the days of male entitlement, prosecution tells jury


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