Belfast rape trial: Jury ends first day of deliberations

Judge tells jurors the accused men’s good character should be taken into account

The jury in the rape trial of Ireland and Ulster players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding has concluded its first day of deliberations.

The eight men and three women were sent away to consider a verdict by Judge Patricia Smyth at 12.30pm on Tuesday and concluded their work for the day at 4pm.

Mr Jackson and Mr Olding are accused of raping a 19-year-old Belfast student at the same time in Mr Jackson’s bedroom during a party. Their friend Blane McIlroy is accused of entering the room naked and asking the woman for sex.

A fourth man, Rory Harrison, is accused of covering up the alleged rape by misleading police and withholding information during the investigation.


Before they began deliberations, Judge Smyth told jurors she can only accept a verdict on which all 11 of them agree.  “You may have heard something about a majority verdict. Just put that out of your mind for now,” she said.

“May I thank you all sincerely for stepping out of your own lives to give us your time,” the judge told the jurors before they left the courtroom.

During her final instructions on Tuesday morning, the judge told the jurors the men were “of good character” and they should take this into account when deciding their verdicts.

“Good character cannot by itself provide a defence to a criminal charge,” the judge said but added the jury can take it into account in the men’s favour when deliberating.

She said good character made them less likely to commit the crimes they were accused of.

“It is for you to decide what weight to attach to this good character.”

She said Mr Jackson took the stand to give evidence which “supports his credibility” and the jury should also take this into account.

These points applied equally to Mr Olding, Mr McIlroy and Mr Harrison, the judge said. She said none of the men had previously been in trouble with police.

The judge cited the evidence of a woman who appeared as a character witness for Mr Harrison. This witness said he helped her with her suitcase while she was rushing for a bus. She volunteered to give character evidence when she read about the case.

On the issue of the complainant’s evidence, the judge said if the jurors thought she lied or made false allegations against any of the men when she spoke to the doctor on the evening after the alleged rape, this must colour their view of her other evidence, the judge said.

“If you think she lied then I am directing you not to rely on her evidence against the complainants,” she said.

However, she said jurors could still rely on independent evidence if they believed the woman had lied. She also said the jury must take into account whether the inconsistencies in her evidence were caused by trauma after a rape rather than dishonesty.

The same applied to the accused, she said. All had drunk a large amount and apparent inconsistencies in their evidence might be a result of this.

The judge also said it was possible the defendants lied about some aspects of the case but that this lie did not necessarily mean they were guilty. People could lie for different reasons, she said.

“Defendants can be motivated to lie out of misplaced loyalty to assist a co-defendant.”

She also reminded the jury of the prosecution argument that asked what the complainant would have had to gain from making false allegations.

The defence argued she made the allegations because she was worried people would find out she had consensual group sex with the men, Judge Smyth said.

Mr Jackson (26), of Oakleigh Park, Belfast, has pleaded not guilty to rape and sexual assault in the early hours of June 28th, 2016, at a party in his house. Mr Olding (25), of Ardenlee Street, Belfast, denies one count of rape on the same occasion. Both men contend the activity was consensual.

Mr McIlroy (26), of Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, has pleaded not guilty to one count of exposure, while Mr Harrison (25), from Manse Road, Belfast, pleaded not guilty to perverting the course of justice and withholding information relating to the incident.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times