herald

Wednesday 26 September 2018

Woman who walked into Jackson's room 'key witness' - judge

Dara Florence was described by the judge as a ‘key witness’ in the trial involving Paddy Jackson
Dara Florence was described by the judge as a ‘key witness’ in the trial involving Paddy Jackson

A judge has described a woman who walked into rugby star Paddy Jackson's bedroom while he was allegedly raping a 19-year-old student as a "key witness" in the trial.

Judge Patricia Smyth has been giving her charge to the jury at Belfast Crown Court, setting out the different accounts of what allegedly happened in Mr Jackson's bedroom.

Mr Jackson (26) and Stuart Olding (25) have denied raping the woman at a party on June 28, 2016. Mr Jackson also denies sexually assaulting her.

Blane McIlroy (26) has pleaded not guilty to exposure and Rory Harrison (25) has denied he perverted the course of justice and withheld information.

Truth

Pointing out how the complainant's account differed from the versions given by the accused, Judge Smyth told the jury it was their decision to determine where the truth lies.

She said the issue was one of consent, and she asked the jury to "bear in mind" explanations of the law in relation to it.

Judge Smyth said it was the prosecution case that the young woman was vaginally raped and digitally penetrated by Mr Jackson and orally raped by Mr Olding.

She said the woman's evidence was she was "frozen in fear" and it was only when Mr McIlroy walked into the room, naked and holding his penis, that she jumped up and ran out.

She said it was the defence case that the woman made a false allegation of rape because she regretted getting involved in consensual group sex and feared she may have been filmed.

The judge said the jury had to decide whether to believe anyone in the case who could not remember aspects of the night.

Paddy Jackson
Paddy Jackson

"You are entitled to consider whether their lapses of memory are genuine or simply a convenient excuse to avoid having to explain their behaviour," she said.

She said that just because the woman was drunk or flirting with Mr Jackson, it was "wrong to leap to conclusions" that she was "looking for, or was willing to have, sex".

"A woman is entitled to say 'no' and decide what sexual activity she wants, how far she is prepared to go and what she does not want to do," she said.

Judge Smyth slowly took the jury through Dara Florence's testimony, describing her as a "key witness".

Ms Florence gave evidence that when she walked into the room she saw Mr Jackson penetrating the woman with his penis, and the woman had her head at Mr Olding's penis. She did not see any signs of distress.

Judge Smyth also said Ms Florence gave evidence that she told a friend she had just seen a threesome.

The judge went through inconsistencies in the alleged victim's evidence, saying the fact there were inconsistencies did not necessarily mean her evidence was not true.

She told the jury a person's memory may be affected differently, and it was up to them to look at the complainant's evidence and decide if it was true.

Judge Smyth told the jury its only task was to decide whether the prosecution had made them sure of the men's guilt.

She is expected to finish her charge to the jury this morning.

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