Fine for man who named Jackson and Olding rape complainant is at lower end of scale

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding
Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding

The £300 fine given to a Belfast man who published the name of the complainant in the high-profile rape trial involving two rugby players comes at the lower end of the scale for such an offence.

Sean McFarland, 36, of Rinnalea Gardens in west Belfast, was fined £300 after pleading guilty to reporting the identity of the complainant who is entitled to lifelong anonymity in the case against former Ireland and Ulster players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.

He is the first person in Northern Ireland to be prosecuted for the offence.

Mr Jackson, 26, and Mr Olding, 25, were both unanimously cleared of raping the woman earlier this year.

Amid unprecedented public interest, concerns over social media commentary persisted throughout the 42-day trial in Belfast.

The Lord Chief Justice’s Office said that a person found guilty of a section one offence such as McFarland’s breach under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 was liable to a fine not exceeding level 5 (£5,000) on the standard scale. A level one fine begins at £200.

A spokesperson said the fine imposed was a matter for the sentencing judge taking account of all the evidence presented to the court.

PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Zoe McKee welcomed the conviction saying it would deter others from committing the same offence.

She said: “Detective Chief Inspector Zoe McKee from Public Protection Branch said: “We welcome the conviction of Sean McFarland after he pleaded guilty to one charge of breaching the lifetime ban on reporting the identity of a complainant in a rape trial which took place in Belfast earlier this year.

“This is the first time that anyone in Northern Ireland had been prosecuted for breaching this right to anonymity and should act as a deterrent to anyone who names a complainant in any serious sexual offence, who are entitled to lifelong anonymity.

“The Police Service of Northern Ireland is fully committed to investigating offences of this nature.

“We understand how difficult it can be for anyone to report a rape. I would encourage anyone who has been the victim of any sexual crime either recently or in the past to contact police or to speak to someone about what has happened.”