More details from the trial of rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding have been made public after the judge lifted reporting restrictions on Wednesday. Press were not allowed to report the information at the time because the comments were made in court but in the absence of the jury. Other comments were withheld from publication by order of the judge.
The two men, along with two co-accused friends, Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison, were cleared of all charges including rape.
Here are the new details that have emerged from the trial:
A defence lawyer was warned about his tone when cross-examining the complainant
When Arthur Harvey QC questioned the woman about why there were inconsistencies in her description of McIlroy’s clothes, she said, “You go into shutdown”. Harvey continued to ask why she had said “you”, as it sounds “almost as if you're repeating something you've read rather than your personal experience.” At this, the judge temporarily dismissed the jury and reprimanded the lawyer for his line of questioning, reminding him that he was dealing with a vulnerable witness.
The semen found on the complainant’s jeans was on the crotch
The judge ruled that revealing this information to the jury would be prejudicial, as the vaginal-rape charges against Olding had been dropped before the trial began. The jury were only told that semen had been found on her jeans.
Harrison sent a video of a threesome to Jackson the day after the incident
The clip showed a consensual threesome between unknown people not connected to the case, and was sent to Jackson two hours after the four men had breakfast in a cafe the morning after the alleged event. Harrison claimed he had no knowledge of what was going on upstairs, leading the defence to argue that the video would suggest the four men discussed what had happened. The judge subsequently declared the video irrelevant and removed it from the trial.
There were other bloodstains on Jackson's bed that didn’t belong to the complainant
Some of the bloodstains found on Jackson's bed didn’t come from the complainant and were “airbrushed” out of the images shown to the jury. This is because the defence said the jury would be distracted by the stains, but stated neither Jackson nor the defence would explain where they came from.
The defence lawyer accused the judge of showing sympathy towards the complainant
According to Brendan Kelly, Jackson’s defence lawyer, the judge used sympathetic and “emotive” language in her sum-up of the complainant’s evidence. He says these sentiments were not present in the original giving of evidence. However, the judge said the defence team had seen her statement in advance and did not raise any issues.
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long’s tweet nearly put the case in jeopardy
In a tweet, Long called the comments of defence barrister Frank O'Donoghue “appalling” after he told the jury that the middle-class girls who were downstairs “were not going to tolerate a rape or anything like that”. The tweet, which asked whether O’Donoghue meant that working-class girls “wouldn't care/don't matter/think rape is normal?”, may have been prejudicial, and the defence asked for the jury to be discharged. The judge refused the request.
Tweets about the court presence of Ireland rugby captain Rory Best led to claims of undermined justice
Rory Best was originally due to appear as a character witness for the defence, but was not called to give evidence. However, he still appeared in the public gallery to watch the complainant begin her testimony, prompting a social-media outcry and the hashtag #notmycaptain to trend on Twitter. The judge had to encourage the jury to ignore what they read on social media and explained that Best was told to be in court by “senior counsel”.
These new details coincide with the launch of a new Rape Crisis Service for Northern Ireland, launched in response to the case. Women’s Aid CEO Jan Melia has called the trial “Northern Ireland's own #MeToo moment”, after the charity’s phones were inundated with calls in the aftermath of the trial’s verdict. According to the Belfast Telegraph, the service will be a conglomeration of Women's Aid, Nexus NI and the Men's Advisory Project, who will offer free support to victims of rape and sexual assault.
Update: On Saturday 14th April, 2018, Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby issued the following statement:
"Following a review conducted in the aftermath of recent court proceedings, the Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby have revoked the contracts of Patrick Jackson and Stuart Olding with immediate effect.
"In arriving at this decision, the Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby acknowledge our responsibility and commitment to the core values of the game: Respect, Inclusivity and Integrity.
"It has been agreed, as part of this commitment, to conduct an in-depth review of existing structures and education programmes, with the game in Ireland, to ensure the importance of these core values is clearly understood, supported and practised at every level of the game."