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Saturday 21 July 2018

Keep your emotions out of decision, rape trial jury instructed

Paddy Jackson leaves court yesterday
Paddy Jackson leaves court yesterday

The jury in the trial of two Irish rugby players accused of raping a student at a house party has been told that prejudice or emotions have no part to play in its deliberations.

In her charge to the 11-member jury, Judge Patricia Smyth said they must decide the case on the evidence they have heard and nothing else.

Judge Smyth said the jury must review the evidence dispassionately and clinically.

She said the jurors were entitled to draw inferences and common-sense conclusions but must not speculate on the evidence.

The jury was told it must guard against any prejudice against or sympathy for anyone involved in the trial.

Assumptions

Paddy Jackson (26) and his Ulster team-mate Stuart Olding (25) have denied raping the then 19-year-old woman on June 28, 2016. Mr Jackson also denies a charge of sexual assault. Both men claim the activity was consensual.

Blane McIlroy (26) denies one count of exposure, while Rory Harrison (25) has pleaded not guilty to perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Judge Smyth told the jurors they may have assumptions about what constitutes rape, or a rapist or what a rape victim might say or do. However, they must set aside these assumptions, as there was no stereotype for a rape, a rapist or a victim.

She said that a person's demeanour in court was not necessarily a clue to the truth of their account. She also said that signs of distress did not confirm the truth or accuracy of what a person had said.

She told the jury the morals of any person in this case were "completely irrelevant" and the only purpose of a court of law was to determine if a criminal offence had been committed.

Stuart Olding
Stuart Olding

She said the panel may have heard evidence of sexual activity which they found "distasteful" but said "you must not jump to a conclusion".

"You must not allow yourself to be influenced by any view. You must consider the evidence and decide whether you are sure of the defendants' guilt," she added.

Warnings for jurors to ignore press and social media reports, in particular on Twitter, were also repeated.

The judge told the jury to be "careful" when considering the text messages exchanged by all parties in this case.

She said some of the terms may be regarded as crude or offensive or derogatory to women but they were not equivalent to an intention to have non-consensual sex.

Young men may use language which is common parlance among their group but may not necessarily be reflective of their views or what they think.

Their descriptions of events may also be "incomplete" or "easily misconstrued". They may also brag in ways which do not reflect reality she said.

The judge also told the jury they may hold strong views on young people drinking to excess. However, she said that they may not make any assumptions about any person who was drinking that night.

Judge Smyth told the jurors to use their "common sense and experience of life".

She said the burden of proof was on the prosecution, who must prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. She said the defendants did not have to prove their innocence.

Offences

The judge also explained the relevant points of law which apply in each case. She said there were six offences on the indictment before the jury. The judge broke each charge down to its different elements, and said the jury must consider each element before reaching a verdict.

In Mr Jackson's rape allegation, Judge Smyth said that the prosecution must prove three things beyond a reasonable doubt, namely that Mr Jackson intentionally penetrated the woman with his penis, that she did not consent and he did not reasonably believe she was consenting.

Judge Smyth is expected to finish her charge on Monday, and the jury will then retire to consider its verdict.

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