Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding trial: Barrister for friend of rape accused rugby stars delivers closing speech

A barrister for a friend of two rugby stars on trial for rape has begun to deliver his closing speech to Belfast Crown Court.

Gavan Duffy QC, representing Rory Harrison, who denies charges connected to the alleged incident in June 2016, told jurors they held a "huge amount of power" but warned they must be sure of any verdict.

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding

Turning towards the eight men and three women, the defence counsel said: "There is one power that is removed from you.

"That is the power to change your mind."

Mr Duffy told jurors they could not revisit the verdict in a week, a month or a year's time.

He added: "You cannot undo a verdict once you have reached it."

Paddy Jackson, 26, from Belfast's Oakleigh Park, and Stuart Olding, 25, from Ardenlee Street in the city, deny raping the same woman at a house in south Belfast in June 2016.

Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.

Blane McIlroy, 26, denies exposure while Harrison, 25, denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Mr Duffy urged the 11-person jury they must guard against any prejudice or sympathy which may arise out of the nature of the allegations.

He said: "This is a court of law. It is not a court of morality and it is certainly not a court of public opinion."

Jurors must only consider the evidence to the "same high standard" as any criminal case, the court was told.

If they entertain "any single doubt" they must acquit, the barrister said.

Mr Duffy added: "It is only if you are firmly convinced that you can properly convict in this case, as in any case."

Proving guilt is an "awfully high hurdle" for the prosecution, Mr Duffy said.

"To guard against the horrifying prospect that an innocent person is convicted of something that they did not do."

Harrison was not treated "even handedly" by police investigating allegations of rape made against his friends Jackson and Olding, the court heard.

Mr Duffy said: "Mr Harrison has not been treated even handedly or fairly by the police in the way they investigated the case."

The lawyer further suggested police had "bent over backwards" to facilitate a "theory" of what happened but treated with "contempt" accounts which did not fit in with that theory.

Referencing the importance of good character evidence, the lawyer told jurors: "Rory Harrison is a genuinely caring person. He is a kind person. He is an honest person and he is a modest person."

The lawyer said court experience showed people of good character were "less likely to commit offences" and when they give evidence are more likely "to be telling the truth".

"You must look at his evidence through the prism of his good character.

"At the risk of embarrassing him, I am suggesting to you that Rory Harrison's character is exemplary."