Ulster rugby players Stuart Olding and Paddy Jackson have been accused of raping a young woman in the early hours of June 28th, 2016. The alleged crime took place in Mr Jackson’s home in Belfast at an after-party following a night out. Mr Jackson is also charged with a count of sexual assault. Both players deny all charges.
Two other men are facing charges with regards to the same case. Rory Harrison is charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information. Blane McIlroy is charged with one count of exposure.
Judge Patricia Smyth was sworn into the rape trial at Belfast Crown Court on January 29th earlier this year. She reportedly urged the jurors to keep an open mind until all evidence had been presented.
The beginning of the trial saw the young woman be questioned in regard to her knowledge of and interest in rugby. She insisted to the jurors that she was not a follower of rugby and did not know any players. The young woman was asked if she knew Ulster rugby players were in the VIP area of the club and if she was “attracted to celebrities.” She responded saying she “did not go to the VIP area to meet the rugby players” nor did she “know who these people were.”
Text messages reveal the young woman feared her own position would not stand up against the players, as she stated she “didn’t want to go to police because of who was involved” in a text message to a friend, who advised the alleged victim to pretend she did not know the rugby players. A defence lawyer then asked if the woman had “watered down” her knowledge of rugby, which she denied doing. The texts also reveal her saying “It will be a case of my word against theirs… and they’ll have the same fabricated story.”
Mr Harvey, McIlroy’s lawyer, has claimed the woman’s memory of the night was “frayed,” to which she replied saying “That’s your opinion, Mr Harvey.” She admits her recollection being partly “hazy.” She has denied claims she consented to the activity because she was in “an excited and intoxicated state.” She has also denied Mr Kelly’s, Mr Jackson’s barrister’s, claims that she was “petrified that either the rumour or the proof of this sexual activity would find its way to [her] friends” and that that was what “drove [her] on as far as running with this lie,” saying “this is not a lie.” She has also rejected defence claims that she consented to sex with Jackson and invited Olding to join.
The court was told that Jackson denied ever having intercourse with the young woman.
Harrison’s statement described the complainant as “fixated” with Jackson. He said that Jackson went to bed first, and the young woman left the room five minutes later, but he did not know where she was going. He got in a taxi with her and noted then that “She kept crying into herself and appeared unsettled.”
The trial is expected to continue for another two weeks.