The Belfast rape trial concluded nine days ago with verdicts for not guilty for Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding, Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison.
Immediately after the verdict, Jackson said the following to reporters waiting outside the court:
“I just like to thank the judge and the jury for giving me a fair trial, my parents for being here every day as well as my brother and sisters. I’d like to thank my barrister Brendan Kelly QC, my solicitors Joe McVeigh and Kevin Winters of RKW Law. Out of respect for my employers I’m have nothing further to comment.”
His lawyer said the following:
On behalf of Patrick Jackson we are grateful to the jury for reaching a common sense verdict of not guilty to all counts.
Paddy has been consistent in his denials and his account. Consistency had never been a feature of the complainant’s evidence long before she entered the witness box.
So these acquittals should come as no surprise. Paddy leaves court for the last time today, as he entered it almost 10 weeks ago, an innocent man. The prosecution made much of a perceived privilege position provided by virtue of Paddy being an International rugby player.
We say that it was his status as a famous sportsman that drove the decision to prosecute in the first place. Much has been said in the course of this trial by way of criticism of the police investigation.
We have little to add to what has already been said but it is our belief that this investigation has been characterised by a blind eye being turn to the inadequacies in the evidence of the complainant combined with apparent investigative bias.
Paddy and his parents have paid a heavy price personally, professionally and financially. This price was paid despite the fact he is and has never been anything other than entirely innocent.
On the face of it, this robust assertion of its independence by the jury embodied in these acquittals may suggest that the trial process is in good health. That is not the case.
Vile commentary expressed on social media, going well beyond fair comment, have polluted the sphere of public discourse and raise real concerns about the integrity of the trial process.
To that end we want to thank the learned trial judge for her management of this trial in the face of an onslaught of toxic content particularly on Twitter. Several days of this trial were lost due to problems thrown up by the intrusive infection of the process by social media.
All the lawyers have been distracted by having to man the barriers against a flood of misinformed, misconceived and malicious content on the internet particularly during the vital last phase of this trial and, worryingly , even at the hands of public servants who should know better. There is no reason to believe that this problem will not worsen.
To that end, we invite the office of the Lord Chief Justice, the Attorney General and the Public Prosecution Service to enter in to fresh discussions with us to look at more robust mechanisms that can strike an effective balance between everyone’s rights but that properly secure the integrity of our criminal justice system.
As for Paddy, his main priority right now is to return to his work and that means getting back on to the Rugby pitch representing his Province and his Country.
Start Olding said the following immediately after the trial:
I want to start by thanking the judge and jury for their time and patience throughout this long trial.
I am very relieved that the jury has accepted my explanation as to what occurred.
I want to acknowledge publicly, that though I committed no criminal offence on the evening of the 28th of June, 2016, I regret deeply the events of that evening.
I want to acknowledge that the complainant came to court and gave evidence about her perception of those events. I am sorry for the hurt that was caused to the complainant. It was was never my intention to hurt anyone on that night.
I don’t agree with her perception of events, and I maintain that everything that happened that evening was consensual.
I have consistently told the truth to the police and the court when asked to account for my conduct.
The Stuart Olding who has been portrayed in the past nine weeks in this trial is not the real Stuart Olding. I am fiercely proud to represent my province and my country. I have worked very hard to achieve those goals.
I hope to be able to prove myself going forward in all aspects of my life.
Two things happened today (6th April):
- A full page crowdfunded ad appeared in the Belfast Telegraph calling on the Ulster and Ireland rugby teams to never allow the two men to play for them again
- Paddy Jackson released the following statement:
I am ashamed that a young woman who was a visitor to my home left in a distressed state. This was never my intention and I will always regret the events of that evening.
I am also truly sorry for engaging in a WhatsApp group chat which was degrading and offensive and I apologise unreservedly for this.
The criticism of my behaviour is fully justified and I know I have betrayed the values of my family and those of the wider public.
Following the trial I have taken time to reflect with my family on the values that were such an integral part of my upbringing, the most important of which is respect. My departure from these values has caused understandable public anger and I am resolutely committed to returning to those principles.
This is the first time that Jackson has expressed any regret for the indicent.
My observation on all of the above is as follows: I don’t know if Jackson’s statement was prompted by the ad, but I give much more credit to Olding for his immediate statement, given personally, than I do to Jackson for his belated press release.
There were no winners in this sequence of events, but IMO Jackson has come out worst of all.