Belfast rape trial: Jury should take ‘inconsistencies’ into account

Jurors told ‘not to sit in judgment’ on police or to punish them for perceived failures

Paddy Jackson (left) has pleaded not guilty to rape and sexual assault; Stuart Olding (25) denies one count of rape.

Paddy Jackson (left) has pleaded not guilty to rape and sexual assault; Stuart Olding (25) denies one count of rape.

 

The jury in the rape trial of Ireland and Ulster players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding should take “inconsistencies” in the complainant’s evidence into account when considering a verdict, the trial judge has instructed.

Judge Patricia Smyth was giving a final address to the jury before it begins its deliberations, eight weeks on from the beginning of the trial began at Laganside Crown Court in Belfast.

She summarised the evidence in the case and instructed jurors on the points of law they must consider before coming to a verdict.

Mr Jackson and Mr Olding are accused of raping the 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.

“The defence case is that these allegations are false,” Judge Smyth reminded the jury. She said it was the defence case that “[the complainant] made false allegations because she became involved in consensual group activity and feared she may have been filmed engaging in these acts.”

Inconsistencies

The judge highlighted what she said were several inconsistencies between the various accounts of the night given by the woman.

On the morning after the alleged rape, the woman texted three friends stating she had been raped by three men. She did not mention oral rape or the fact another woman had walked in on the activity.

She also did not mention these facts, or the allegation that Mr Jackson had digitally penetrated her, when giving her account at the Rowan Sexual Assault Clinic that evening.

The woman later told police and the jury all these things did happen

When describing the actions of Mr McIlroy to a medical examiner, she said he came into the bedroom and took his trousers down. She later told police Mr McIlroy walked into the bedroom with his trousers already down. She said in court Mr McIlroy was already naked when he entered the room.

Judge Smyth said the woman also said at the clinic that she was raped by two men, including by one man who raped her while she was on her back. The judge said she now accepts only one man raped her and it occurred “from behind”.

Memory

The judge told the jury such inconsistencies can arise when someone has been raped and do not necessarily mean a person is lying.

She said that after a rape some people “may go over and over it in their mind with the result that their memory might become clearer”. Others, she said, might try to block it out, meaning they get some details wrong when they recall it.

However the judge also said inconsistencies could also be present if someone had made a false complaint of rape. They could suggest a manufactured account, she said.

Mr Olding had originally been charged with vaginally raping the woman but the Public Prosecution Service decided to drop this charge last year and proceed with a sole charge of oral rape.

Making assumptions

Judge Smyth instructed jurors they should not speculate or make assumptions about this decision. “The prosecution have an ongoing duty to review evidence against all defendants.”

Much of the defence case relates to what it says are failures in the police investigation. The men’s barristers have accused officers of failing to probe the woman’s evidence properly and failing to have her explain inconsistencies in her account.

The judge warned jurors their function was “not to sit in judgment on the police officer’s competency or to punish them for perceived failures”. She said jurors must judge the case on the evidence alone.

On the subject of alcohol intake, the judge said it would be wrong to assume that because the woman was drunk she was “looking for and willing to have sex”.

The woman told the trial during her evidence she had 1½ glasses of wine and three double vodkas during the night.

Memory lapses

Addressing memory lapses on the part of the accused, Judge Smyth said jurors were entitled to consider “whether lapses of memory are genuine or a convenient excuse to avoid explaining their behaviour”.

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, denies one count of rape on the same occasion. Both men contend the activity was consensual.

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

Judge Smyth will continue her charge on Tuesday morning. The jury of eight men and three woman is expected to begin deliberations by lunchtime.