A FORMER unionist councillor jailed for rape failed yesterday in a bid to have his conviction overturned.
The Court of Appeal ruled that the guilty verdict returned against William Wilkinson for sexually assaulting the victim in her own home was safe.
The 34-year-old, formerly of Tully Road, Portglenone, was given a seven-year sentence for rape and attempted rape in August 2008.
Wilkinson, who sat on Ballymena Council, and had been a DUP member until leaving in protest at the decision to share power with Sinn Fein, claimed the woman had consented to sex.
The court heard evidence that the attack happened after the pair had been out drinking together in a bar and north coast nightclub.
During the trial the woman said she grabbed a bedside phone and dialled 999 as the attack was carried out on her.
A recording of the call was played to the jury and included her repeatedly saying: “Get off me.”
Wilkinson denied any 999 call happened during sexual activity between the pair and claimed the woman made it when she was alone.
He alleged that it was staged to get him out of the house following a row between them.
His lawyers based their appeal on claims that the trial judge issued flawed directions to the jury on the law dealing with whether or not he was reckless in not checking if the woman agreed to sex.
It was also argued that the summing up of the case failed to fairly and adequately put the defence case on the telephone call evidence.
Ruling on the appeal, Lord Justice Girvan, sitting with Lord Justice Coghlin and Mr Justice Hart, said the issues arising in the case meant it was unnecessary for the judge to raise the issue of recklessness at all.
He held that what was said to the jury was correct as far as it went, although there was some justification for criticising the lack of guidance about what it meant.
But he stated: “The lack of definition in the trial judge’s direction, however, does not call into question the safety of the verdict since the jury’s finding demonstrated that they must have been sure that the complainant’s account was reliable.”
It was further made clear that Wilkinson had a full opportunity to deploy all points he wanted to rely on to undermine the telephone evidence.
“The judge drew the jury’s attention to the thrust of the prosecution and the defence case on the issue,” Lord Justice Girvan said.
“The appellant has not persuaded us that the summing up was deficient or that it failed to set out fairly the appellant’s case on the issue.
“For these reasons we dismiss the appellant’s appeal against conviction.”
A separate hearing to challenge the seven-year sentence imposed on Wilkinson will take place in September.