Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding trial: rape claim against rugby stars ‘a throwback to days of male entitlement’

  • Warning: includes graphic content

The alleged rape of a woman by two Ireland and Ulster rugby players represents a throwback to the days of male entitlement, a court has been told.

The claim was made as prosecutor Toby Hedworth QC began his closing speech at Belfast Crown Court.

Ulster and Ireland rugby stars Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding

Ulster and Ireland rugby stars Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding

He said: “The law of this land says that a young woman is allowed to say no, and any such no not only should be heeded but must be heeded.”

“The law does not say ‘oh well, you let me kiss you so I should force myself upon you and I the male will decide how far this will go.

“The law is not, if she was up for something then I and my friends, if they fancy, can join and can effectively do as I and they please.

“The world has moved on.

“Unfortunately the behaviour of some in our society has not.

“What happened in Patrick Jackson’s bedroom in the early hours of June 28 2016 represents, we say, a throwback to the days of male entitlement.”

Paddy Jackson, 26, from Belfast’s Oakleigh Park and Stuart Olding, 25, from Ardenlee Street in the city, deny raping the same woman after a night out in Belfast on June 28 2016. Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.

Two other men are also on trial on charges connected with the alleged attack.

Blane McIlroy, 26, from Royal Lodge Road in Belfast, denies one count of exposure. Rory Harrison, 25, from Manse Road in Belfast has pleaded not guilty to perverting the course of justice and withholding information. The trial is in its seventh week.

Addressing the panel of eight men and three women, Mr Hedworth said the case was not about the “me too” campaign or gender politics but about the behaviour of some males.

He added: “The evidence shows they are not interested in the views of a young woman if their passions are up and they are full of drink.”

The lawyer suggested the woman’s views about sexual activity had not been sought and that evidence shows it is easier for complainants “just to comply”.

“If she dares to complain thereafter then she is obviously some silly little girl,” the lawyer said.

She “is getting the boys into trouble”, he added.

Mr Hedworth said: “That is not the modern world. These are not the rules of our present day society as regulated by our modern laws.”

The lawyer said he was not pursuing “some radical” feminist agenda.

Instead, he was talking about “proper relationships”, protections and limits of conduct which anyone would expect for their daughter or sister.

Such rules, he said, were the “cornerstone of our system of justice”.

Regarding the woman’s account, Mr Hedworth said experience showed complainants “do not always give all the details” and “do not always get all the detail right” because of fear and anxiety, genuine confusion or misplaced shame.

He said: “You do not just say ‘well she’s not injured so she must have consented.

“You do not just say ‘she could stand up for herself in a court so why could she not stand up for herself that night in the bedroom.’”

The prosecutor later addressed defence suggestions the woman hoped to pull a celebrity while partying in the VIP section of Ollies nightclub.

He said: “This celebrity bagger, as the defence would suggest, did spend a period of time talking to a man. Was it a rugby celebrity? No.

“Was it a football celebrity? No.

“It was, in fact, it transpires, the Northern Ireland official team doctor.”

He also referred to evidence she had consensually kissed Jackson in an upstairs bedroom earlier in the night but told him she did not want to take things further.

“Why would she say that the initial contact was consensual unless it was because she’s telling the truth?”

The barrister addressed defence suggestions the woman was a “silly girl who has willingly done something that she now regretted”.

Consider if she had been “using each of them in turn for her own sexual gratification upstairs in a house with none of her friends present”, he urged jurors.

The complainant was reluctant to report the matter to police, the court heard.

Instead, in the immediate aftermath she was more concerned about getting the morning after pill.

Mr Hedworth asked: “Why was she so anxious to get the morning after pill?

“Is it really to be suggested that she could not tell the difference between someone having sexual intercourse and someone inserting their finger.

“Consider that.”

When assessing inconsistencies provided to medics at a rape referral centre, the jury was told to bear in mind “how easy it is to go through that process and remember every detail”.

The prosecution suggested the woman’s assertion of being portrayed as a “silly little girl” had been “spot on”.

“That’s the stance they have taken,” added Mr Hedworth.

Prosecutors did not seek to hide inconsistencies in the complainant’s evidence, the court was told.

Mr Hedworth requested jurors ask themselves to consider “the state” she would have been in on the evening of June 28 2016 when she presented herself at a rape crisis centre.

“How straight is she likely to be?”

He added: “A genuine complainant whether because of trauma, shock and confusion can give inconsistent accounts.

“What you have to consider is that the central allegations, which are before you, are true, as we would invite you to do.”

The jury was also reminded of the evidence from a taxi driver who took the complainant and Harrison home.

Mr Hedworth said: “Most significant of all we submit is that when the police got in touch he knew straight away what it was in relation to. Straight away.”

The lawyer warned about “smoke and mirrors” deployed to pick holes in the police investigation which failed to retrieve CCTV footage from outside the club or to seize Olding’s clothing during a search of his house.

Outlining aspects of the medical evidence, the lawyer also reminded the court that Dr Janet Hall, an expert in sexual assault examinations, agreed alcohol consumption could reduce inhibitions, create arousal and make people do things they may later regret.

“What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,” said Mr Hedworth.

He said another doctor concluded bruising and a 1cm bleeding laceration to the woman’s vagina had been caused by blunt force trauma.

The jury should think about why the woman would put herself through the indignity of a forensic medical examination “unless she was telling the truth.”

He added: “Because a woman is entitled to say no, regardless of how much testosterone is kicking about.”

After spelling out the prosecution case against each defendant, the barrister drew his two-and-a-half hour speech to a close.

Mr Hedworth said: “It matters not whether a prince or a pauper, you are just as capable of getting yourself extremely drunk and doing something which in the cold light of day, when you realise the consequences, you come to regret.”

He also highlighted inconsistencies in the accounts provided by the four defendants, at one point describing them as “utterly ludicrous”.

Mr Hedworth said: “A good school, a good rugby career, even an act of kindness at a bus station counts for nothing when used to disguise the realities of what overbearing, drunk young men will do when passions are raised and they have available to them a young woman who’s own views about what is happening to her matter not.

“They knew she was not consenting. They simply were not interested.”

In conclusion, the lawyer told the jury to give careful consideration to the evidence and invited them to return, if they were sure, guilty verdicts.

Referencing explicit WhatsApp messages in which the men described themselves as “legends”, Mr Hedworth told the jury: “The lads, legends? You decide.”