Rape trial: Accuser’s anonymity needed better protection – solicitor

Joe McVeigh: Inadequacies in complainant’s evidence merited further scrutiny before trial

Ireland and Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson (centre) with his solicitor Joe McVeigh (centre left) outside Belfast Crown Court after Mr Jackson was found not guilty of raping a woman at a property in south Belfast in June 2016. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ireland and Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson (centre) with his solicitor Joe McVeigh (centre left) outside Belfast Crown Court after Mr Jackson was found not guilty of raping a woman at a property in south Belfast in June 2016. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

A solicitor acting for rugby player Paddy Jackson, who has been acquitted of rape in a high-profile trial in Belfast, has said more should have been done to protect the anonymity of the woman complainant in the case.

The four men accused in the trial were acquitted on Wednesday of all charges at Laganside Crown Court in Belfast.

Following three hours and 45 minutes of deliberations and eight weeks of evidence, the jury of eight men and three women returned unanimous not-guilty verdicts on all counts.

Speaking to RTÉ Six One, Mr Jackson’s solicitor Joe McVeigh was critical of how elements of the trial were conducted.

“The events of that night were turned into a drama in front of the public gaze, in fact the gaze of the world. There has been international interest in this case, not just Irish interest,” said Mr McVeigh.

“It would be wrong for me to try and enter into the mind of Paddy and try and work out exactly how he feels. He has had a lot to contend with, and no way Paddy could get his thoughts in any sort of shape. Up until now he has been having to defend himself and his reputation against what were claims that were clearly inconsistent . . . and from remarks that were made by the young lady and remarks in evidence that he hotly denied,” he said.

Further scrutiny

Mr McVeigh said there were inadequacies in the woman’s evidence that merited further scrutiny before it should have been brought to trial.

“I can’t discuss, at this stage, that to which I am privy in terms of the decision-making process in this case and indeed the investigative process in this case, but it is clear to me that there was simply no basis to bring forward these allegations against Paddy Jackson. Suffice to say, long before this young woman entered the witness box, it was clear there were marked inadequacies in her evidence and inconsistencies in her evidence that were simply not examined by police and clearly not by the prosecution service,” he said.

Mr McVeigh called for anonymity for victims in rape trials going forward. Unlike in Northern Ireland, both defendants and victims are given anonymity in rape trials in the Republic of Ireland.

“It’s common knowledge [in Belfast] the name of this young lady, and if I was this young lady and if I were her parents, I would be absolutely appalled,” he said.

‘Kept secret’

“They were given assurances before this trial commenced that this young woman’s identity would be kept secret. It would be impossible to do that when you have an open court filled to the brim with members of the public for nine solid weeks where her name is used throughout the trial.

“These are the types of issue that young women intend to raise tomorrow in a protest and I entirely agree with them. The safeguards that young woman thought were in place to safeguard her identity were non-existent.

“Our system here in the North pays lip service to these types of protections. The system in the South is the way it should go at the very least,” he said.

Mr McVeigh said the trial has shown why the process needs to be modernised.

“We need to find a way of trying these cases that is fit for the 21st century. We need to look at a better system that protects the integrity of the justice system for everyone,” he said.

Review committee

Mr Jackson and Mr Olding will remain suspended by the IRFU and Ulster Rugby until a review committee has determined its findings.

They were suspended in July of last year after being charged by the PSNI.

The two rugby organisations released a joint statement to say a review committee will look into the matter and “conclude its review as soon as practicable”.

Mr McVeigh said he welcomed a review by the IRFU as it would “help Paddy Jackson get back on the pitch”.

“Paddy Jackson is an employee, and like every employee he should respect his employer and he should open that conversation up privately with them,” he said.

“These types of reviews are legalistic in their nature. Inevitably, like anybody who enters into a review process with their lawyers, they’re entitled to legal advice and I would hope the IRFU are open to let this type of review commence,” he said.