Man accused of publicly identifying Belfast rape trial complainant
Man to be prosecuted in North for allegedly naming complainant on social media
Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were acquitted of the charges
Complainants in rape cases are entitled to life-long anonymity both here and in Northern Ireland. During the nine-week trial, the then 21-year-old woman’s identity was widely shared on various forms of social media.
She gave evidence from behind a curtain but her image was shown to the court through a CCTV feed. In Northern Ireland, unlike in the Republic, members of the public are allowed to attend rape trials.
Following the trial the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said it is actively investigating two people for sharing the woman’s identity on social media.
The North’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said “after careful consideration of the evidence” it is to prosecute one of those men in the Magistrates Court.
“The Public Prosecution Service can confirm it has taken a decision to prosecute one person in relation to an allegation of breaching the anonymity granted to a complainant in a high profile rape trial,” a spokeswoman said.
The second suspect will not be prosecuted after the PPS concluded “there was insufficient evidence to prove any offence had been committed,” she said.
“In taking these decisions, senior prosecutors considered evidence received from police in relation to social media posts which were alleged to have potentially identified a complainant involved in trial proceedings which ran at Belfast Crown Court from January to March 2018.”
The accused is to be charged under Section Five of the UK’s Sexual Offences Amendment Act 1992 which carries a maximum £5,000 (€5,619) fine.
The PPS declined to name the accused. “Criminal proceedings have now commenced and this person has a right to a fair trial. It is important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings,” the spokeswoman said.
Mr Jackson and Mr Olding were acquitted of rape offences against the woman following their trial in Belfast Crown Court. Co-accused Blane McIlroy was acquitted of exposing himself to the woman while Rory Harrison was acquitted of attempting to cover up the alleged rape and destroying evidence.
The trial led to an ongoing debate of how complainants in rape cases are treated both north and south of the Border.
In Northern Ireland, retired judge John Gillen is leading a review of rape trial procedures which, among other things, is examining the granting of anonymity to defendants and excluding the public from trials. He is to report in January.
In the Republic, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan also announced a review, including examining the provision of legal representation to complainants throughout a trial. The review is due to be completed by the end of the summer.