Rugby players’ trial - weekly summary: ‘She didn’t have to stay, she could have left’
Jury have been hearing from the accused what they say happened on June 28th, 2016
Ireland and Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson arrives at Belfast Crown Court earlier this month. File photograph: Michael Cooper/PA Wire
After 13 days of evidence from guests at the party where Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding allegedly raped a 19-year-old Belfast student, the rugby players’ trial this week moved on to the technical and forensic aspects of the case.
The jury of nine men and three woman also heard for the first time the version of the accused, in their own words, of what happened on the night of June 28th, 2016 in Mr Jackson’s bedroom.
The Ireland and Ulster rugby players deny raping the woman, and say the sexual activity was consensual. Blane McIlroy denies exposing himself to the woman during the same incident, while Rory Harrison denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information relating to the allegations.
Mr Jackson, who is accused of vaginal rape, claims only consensual oral sex took place. Mr Olding is accused of one count of oral rape. He accepts the woman performed oral sex on him, but states it was consensual and initiated by the complainant. The trial sat for just two and a half days this week and, according to Judge Patricia Smyth, is now significantly behind schedule.
She told jurors the trial is now expected to finished by March 16th, three weeks away. Most of the week was taken up with sometimes-conflicting evidence concerning a medical examination of the woman on the evening of the 28th, some 14 hours after she was allegedly raped.
The examiner, Dr Philip Lavery, gave evidence for the prosecution that he noted a laceration to the woman’s vaginal wall which was still bleeding. This could have been caused by a “penis, a finger or an object”, he said. It was not possible to determine whether it was caused by consensual activity, he said.
He also noted a bruise on the woman’s labia minora on the outer vagina. Both wounds were caused by “blunt force trauma,” he said.
Dr Lavery made a DVD recording of the vaginal examination at the Rowan Sexual Assault Referral Centre. In response to his evidence, Mr Jackson’s defence team called Dr Janet Hall, an experienced, semi-retired forensic medical examiner who had reviewed the DVD and Dr Lavery’s notes.
She criticised the quality of the DVD recording for not showing the laceration noted by Dr Lavery. Without viewing the wound, she said, it was not possible to determine whether it was the source of the bleeding visible in the recording.
She said it could have been menstrual blood, but could not say this with certainty as the recording did not show the examination of the cervix, where menstruation comes from.
Regarding the bruise on the labia, she said she saw some discolouration in the area but not where Dr Lavery had said it was. Dr Hall agreed with Mr Jackson’s counsel that the laceration injury, if it existed, was more consistent with penetration by the fingers than the penis. This matched Mr Jackson’s account of events, defence counsel noted.
The doctor said injuries to the vaginal wall are not common in cases of rape, except if “excessive force” is used. If excessive force was used, she said she would expect to find other injuries to the outer vaginal structures, yet she found none.
While Dr Hall was on the stand, counsel for Mr Ilroy, Arthur Harvey QC, took the opportunity to ask her about the effects of alcohol in sexual situations. She agreed alcohol lowers inhibitions and can cause people to do things “without fully appreciating the consequences or risks”. She further agreed it can create arousal, as well as leading to feelings of regret and remorse.
Under re-examination, prosecuting counsel Toby Hedworth QC asked if, in her experience, rape victims usually resist an attack “or let it happen”. “The evidence is overwhelming that it is allowed to happen,” she replied.
The trial moved on to evidence from a scientist from Forensic Science Northern Ireland, who told the jury she found blood matching the complainant on the complainant’s trousers and on Mr Jackson’s bedsheet. Semen from Mr Olding was found on the woman’s top, jeans and underwear.
For the first time this week the jurors heard Mr Jackson’s and Mr Olding’s version of what happened. Both men were interviewed on June 30th, two days after the alleged rape and hours after the complainant made her first police statement. Mr Jackson initially refused to answer police questions.
‘Strenuously deny allegations’
Instead, his solicitor handed detectives a prepared statement which said: “I strenuously deny these allegations. I am shocked and horrified that these allegations have been made against me.”
In later interviews he answered the officers’ questions. He told officers he had noticed the woman back at his house during the party and that she was staring at him, which he found “kind of strange”.
He said he knew she was interested in him as she touched him a few times “in a flirty way” and was trying to chat to him. He left the living room and went upstairs in the hope she would follow him, he said. She did and they started kissing in his bedroom, he said.
Then she asked him what her name was. He didn’t know and this caused “the vibe” to change, he said. He left the room and went back downstairs. About 10 minutes later he again left the living room and was again followed into his room by the woman, he said. They started kissing “pretty passionately”, he said. “She went down and started kissing my neck. She bit my lip pretty hard.”
He told police she started performing oral sex on him. Mr Olding then came to the door. Mr Jackson said he smiled and waved at Mr Olding who came in and sat at the end of the bed. He said she then started performing oral sex on Mr Olding while Mr Jackson used his fingers “on her downstairs region”.
In Mr Olding’s version of events, he went upstairs and opened the bedroom door to see Mr Jackson lying on the bed and the woman straddling him. He said he was going to leave but the woman invited him over by putting her hand out. He went over and kissed her before she performed oral sex on him. This lasted for about five minutes before he ejaculated.
He said he left the room and went to sleep elsewhere in the house. Both men told police the woman asked whether they had condoms and Mr Jackson replied they did not. Mr Jackson told police he presumed she wanted to have intercourse but they did not because he had no condoms.
Asked about what signs of consent the woman showed, Mr Jackson replied: “I didn’t force myself on her. I presume she wanted it to happen. She didn’t have to stay, she could have left.”
Mr Olding said: “She didn’t pull away. She kissed me back as well.” Asked about how much he had to drink over the night before going back to the house, Mr Olding said he had eight cans of beer, four pints of Guinness, two gins, five vodkas and three shots of tequila.
The trial will continue hearing recordings of Mr Olding’s interviews on Monday, followed by interviews with Mr McIlroy and Mr Harrison.