Belfast rape trial: Courtroom 12 atmosphere was stuffy and close

Court heard details of oral sex and woman’s injuries in Paddy Jackson/Stuart Olding trial

Ulster and Ireland rugby player Stuart Olding arrives at Laganside Magistrates court on Tuesday. Stuart Olding is charged with two counts of rape. Paddy Jackson is charged with one count of rape and one count of sexual assault. Photograph: Pacemaker

Ulster and Ireland rugby player Stuart Olding arrives at Laganside Magistrates court on Tuesday. Stuart Olding is charged with two counts of rape. Paddy Jackson is charged with one count of rape and one count of sexual assault. Photograph: Pacemaker

 

Courtroom 12, where Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding are on trial accused of rape, is on the top floor of Laganside Courts.

The view from the corridor outside the courtroom sweeps over the shipyard cranes and the hills above east Belfast, bright in the early spring sunshine.

Inside Courtroom 12, by contrast, the atmosphere was stuffy and close, the overhead lights glaring. The topic of discussion was the mechanics of oral sex: who allegedly put what body part where, how it might have been done, and whether it was forced or consensual.

A detective constable, questioned by Frank O’Donoghue QC, Mr Olding’s barrister, agreed that the rugby player had been “fully co-operative” after he was arrested following the alleged attacks.

According to Mr O’Donoghue, his client told the police he had consensual oral sex with the complainant, which lasted about five minutes, then got up and left the room, leaving her on the bed.

Listened intently

In the packed public gallery, people listened intently to the exchange between the QC and the police officer.

A man in a suit holding a smartphone was approached by a security guard and told to put it away.

The gallery is separated from the body of the courtroom by vertical panels of glass, which reflects the faces of those sitting in the public seats as they follow proceedings.

The dock, which is occupied by the four defendants – Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, together with Blane McIlroy, who is charged with exposure, and Rory Harrison, charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information – is also surrounded by glass, creating further layers of mirrored reflections. The men deny all the charges against them.

In the afternoon, the court heard evidence from Dr Philip Lavery, a forensic medical examiner. He told prosecution barrister Toby Hedworth QC that he had questioned and examined the alleged victim at the Rowan clinic, a sexual assault referral centre at Antrim Area Hospital.

Purple bruising

During a physical examination of the woman, Dr Lavery noted purple bruising on her labia and a bleeding laceration on her vaginal wall. When asked what could cause this, he replied “blunt force trauma”. He said that there was no way of telling precisely how such injuries were caused, and whether or not they could have occurred as a result of consensual sex.

Brendan Kelly QC, Mr Jackson’s barrister, put it to Dr Lavery that the content he provided was to be relied upon and was important to the court process. “We don’t get this wrong, do we?” he asked.

“Hopefully not,” said Dr Lavery, taking a sip of water.

There was then a protracted discussion about various parts of the female anatomy, using Latin terminology, and their precise location on a map of the body.

There will be more medical evidence in Courtroom 12 tomorrow.