Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, Ireland and Ulster rugby players, have been acquitted of raping the same woman, who was at the time 19 years old, on the 28th of June 2016. As the BBC reports, their friends, “Blane McIlroy, who was accused of exposure, and Rory Harrison, who was charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information, were also found not guilty.”
The claimant in the case claimed that she was attacked by Paddy Jackson in the early morning of the 28th of June 2016 when returning to Paddy Jackson’s house to retrieve a bag. Upon her return, Paddy Jackson allegedly pushed her on the bed after following her to the bedroom and raped her. According to the accused, all sexual activity that took place was fully consensual.
After three hours and 45 minutes of deliberation, the jury delivered their verdict. Judge Patricia Smyth, the BBC reports, said: “This has probably been the most difficult trial that any jury in Northern Ireland has ever been asked to adjudicate on.” After being acquitted, the Guardian now reports that,
“The Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby have now opened a review, which will determine whether Jackson and Olding can resume their top-level rugby careers in Ireland.”
The judicial decision has stirred controversy. Protests have been held across Ireland; as the Guardian reports,
“Some of the banners at the Belfast protest on Thursday expressed solidarity with the 21-year-old woman at the centre of the case. Protesters tied bunches of yellow flowers and posters to railings outside the entrance to the courts.”
Now that the men have been found innocent, the legal team behind them is pointing out the issues inherent to rape trials. For example,
“Jackson’s lawyer, Joe McVeigh, called for new legal protections to prevent complainants in rape cases from being named on social media. He also said Northern Ireland should follow the example of the Irish Republic’s law banning identification of people accused of rape unless and until they are found guilty.”