Rugby players on trial are ‘braggarts, not rapists’, court hears

Counsel for Blane McIlroy claims alleged rape victim trying to protect her reputation

 

The rugby players accused of raping a 19-year-old Belfast student are “braggarts not rapists”, the jury in their trial has been told.

Blane McIlroy is accused of exposing himself to a woman directly after she was allegedly raped by Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.

Mr McIlroy is alleged to have entered Mr Jackson’s bedroom naked and told the complainant: “You f**ked those guys. Why not me?”

A fourth man, Rory Harrison, is accused of trying to cover up the alleged rape by giving police a misleading statement and deleting relevant text messages.

On Wednesday afternoon the jury heard closing arguments from Mr McIlroy’s counsel, Arthur Harvey QC.

Earlier, counsel for Mr Olding gave his closing address.

Mr McIlroy claims the woman willingly performed oral sex on him as she lay on the bed beside Mr Jackson.

The woman denies this and Mr Jackson has said he never saw Mr McIlroy in the room.

Shamed

In his closing address, Mr Harvey told the jury the woman told “lies built upon lies”. He alleged she claimed she was raped because she was worried about being shamed on social media for engaging with the men sexually.

“She was mortified, and mortified as to what the consequences would be,” counsel said. “What did she have to gain? Her reputation.”

He asked why her memory “was so perfect in some places and so imperfect in others”.

He asked why the woman did not call out for help during the alleged rape. “It would have been over there and then if she had.”

Mr Harvey highlighted the evidence of witness Dara Florence, who walked into the room during the incident involving Mr Jackson and Mr Olding. She told the trial she saw a threesome and not a rape.

Counsel said Ms Florence is an intelligent woman who gave a detailed account.

He asked why she would have returned calmly downstairs or left her friend asleep in the house that night if she was worried about what she saw.

The prosecution allege the men conspired to fabricate their accounts of what happened that night. They say Mr McIlroy got mixed up and gave Mr Olding’s account to police, which explains the discrepency between his and Mr Jackson’s evidence.

Boasting

Addressing this, Mr Harvey said: “The theory, not facts not evidence, that the prosecution advance is the defendants conspired to manufacture a account of what happened. What evidence is there of that? None. None.”

Referring to texts exchanged by Mr McIlroy and the other men boasting about sexual activity with the woman, counsel said these show the men are “braggarts, not rapists.”

Mr Harvey asked the jury: “Is it likely that a young man of 24 who has never been in trouble before would involve himself in conduct like this? With a background like his?”

He said the prosecution “don’t know how to handle the truth.

“Mr McIIroy has told the truth and it is simply not compatible with the account of the woman. She has a memory that is fragmented and alcohol is the explanation for this.

Mr Harvey said the trial is a “tragedy” for all involved. He said the police handled the investigation disgracefully by not properly probing the woman’s account.

The victim of this case is not just the accused “but we as a society, because when investigations are not properly carried out it impacts people’s faith in the justice system”.

Mr McIlroy, of Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, has pleaded not guilty to one count of exposure.

Mr Olding (25), of Ardenlee Street, Belfast, denies one count of oral rape at a party in Mr Jackson’s house in the early hours of June 28th, 2016.

Mr Jackson (26), of Oakleigh Park, Belfast has pleaded not guilty to rape and sexual assault on the same occasion.

Both men contend the sexual activity was consensual.

Mr Harrison (25), from Manse Road, Belfast, pleaded not guilty to perverting the course of justice and withholding information relating to the incident.

The jury of eight men and three women at Laganside Crown Court will hear closing arguments from Mr Harrison’s counsel on Thursday.

They are expected to begin deliberations early next week.