back to top

People Are Tweeting #IBelieveHer Following The Acquittal Of Two Rugby Players Accused Of Rape

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were found not guilty of rape at Belfast crown court on Wednesday, while two of their friends were acquitted of other offences.

Posted on

Ireland rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding have been found not guilty of raping a student at a house party in Belfast in 2016.

A friend of the Ulster stars, Blane McIlroy, was found not guilty of exposure, while a second friend, Rory Harrison, was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.During the trial, which began in January at Belfast crown court, jurors heard evidence from all four men and the alleged victim, who was 19 when the alleged incident took place. The woman testified that she had gone to a nightclub in Belfast before going back to a party at Jackson's home. She shared consensual kissing with Jackson in a bedroom but claimed she asked to stop when he tried to remove her clothes and left the bedroom. When she returned to retrieve her bag, she claimed, she was raped by Jackson, and she also claimed that she was then forced to perform a sex act on Olding, who entered the room later. She said when McIlroy then entered the room naked, she fled the home, before returning to find her phone. It was then that she claimed she was approached by Harrison, who, according to her, asked if she was ok and took her home. Following the alleged incident, the woman attended a sexual assault referral center. In evidence given at the trial, a doctor for the clinic said she presented genital injuries, but they could not say what had caused the injuries. The defence argued that the woman made false rape allegations because she regretted having group sex with the men and feared it may have been documented and would appear on social media.Olding said that when he entered the room, the woman invited him to stay. Harrison told the jury he did not try and cover up the woman, and that, "Patrick Jackson is the last person in the world who would rape someone."They denied allegations that they met the next day to decide how to cover up what happened.The woman contacted Harrison following the alleged incident, saying in a text, "what happened last night was not consensual", Harrison told the jury he did not pass this on to Jackson as he did not believe what she said.
Charles Mcquillan / Getty Images

A friend of the Ulster stars, Blane McIlroy, was found not guilty of exposure, while a second friend, Rory Harrison, was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

During the trial, which began in January at Belfast crown court, jurors heard evidence from all four men and the alleged victim, who was 19 when the alleged incident took place.

The woman testified that she had gone to a nightclub in Belfast before going back to a party at Jackson's home. She shared consensual kissing with Jackson in a bedroom but claimed she asked to stop when he tried to remove her clothes and left the bedroom.

When she returned to retrieve her bag, she claimed, she was raped by Jackson, and she also claimed that she was then forced to perform a sex act on Olding, who entered the room later.

She said when McIlroy then entered the room naked, she fled the home, before returning to find her phone. It was then that she claimed she was approached by Harrison, who, according to her, asked if she was ok and took her home.

Following the alleged incident, the woman attended a sexual assault referral center. In evidence given at the trial, a doctor for the clinic said she presented genital injuries, but they could not say what had caused the injuries.

The defence argued that the woman made false rape allegations because she regretted having group sex with the men and feared it may have been documented and would appear on social media.

Olding said that when he entered the room, the woman invited him to stay. Harrison told the jury he did not try and cover up the woman, and that, "Patrick Jackson is the last person in the world who would rape someone."

They denied allegations that they met the next day to decide how to cover up what happened.

The woman contacted Harrison following the alleged incident, saying in a text, "what happened last night was not consensual", Harrison told the jury he did not pass this on to Jackson as he did not believe what she said.

Following the acquittal, people began using the hashtag #IBelieveHer – an international hashtag which has been used previously to criticise how the justice system handles sexual assault and rape cases.

My heart is absolutely broken #IBelieveHer

Have no words for the fucking state of this. I hope that poor girl can take solace from the fact that we still stand with her and now, more than ever, #ibelieveher https://t.co/YwP4FlZRUI

I'm disgusted at how quick 11 people could decide. She was questioned for over ten times that amount of time. #IBelieveHer

Author Claire Allan expressed sympathy for the woman.

The damage this trial has done to any woman who has been sexually assaulted or will be sexually assaulted cannot be quantified. What woman would put herself through that by reporting a crime. Disgusted but sadly not surprised by the verdict. #Ibelieveher

The online outrage wasn't confined to Northern Ireland. Irish actor Tara Flynn and presenter Sarah McInerney also tweeted using the hashtag.

“Why don’t people report? They’d report if it were true.” Here’s why. #IBelieveHer

The #IBelieveHer hashtag gives an insight into how deeply upsetting this court case was for so many people. If nothing else, it must surely lead to a change in how rape trials are conducted. Is there any other crime in which the alleged victim appears to be the one on trial?

Others using the hashtag are donating to charities that help those who have been sexually assaulted.

People who are on pay as you go contracts who probably don't end up using their €20 credit at the end of the month, let's do something useful with it 🙌 #IBelieveHer https://t.co/1r5f1ZfRhV

Get on it guys. They need it now more than ever. #IBelieveHer

You can text DRCC to 50300 to donate €4 to Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and FALLBACK to the same number to donate €4 to Rape Crisis Midwest #IBelieveHer

The hashtag has also received criticism from people who say the trial was fair.

Twitter
Twitter
Twitter
Twitter
Twitter

After leaving the court, Olding's lawyer read out a statement written by the player.

He expressed gratitude to the jury for finding him not guilty, then continued: “I want to acknowledge publicly that although I committed no criminal offence on 28 June 2016, I regret deeply the events of that evening.

“I want to acknowledge that the complainant went to court and gave evidence as to her perception of those events. I am sorry the hurt that was caused to the complainant. It was never my intention to cause any upset to anyone on that night. I don’t agree with her perception of events and I maintain that everything that happened that evening was consensual.”

Following the news, Jackson delivered a statement outside the court, thanking the judge for a fair trial, and declining to comment further, "out of respect for my employers".

Statement from Paddy Jackson outside the Belfast court

Irish Rugby also released a statement on Wednesday acknowledging "that this has undoubtedly been a difficult and extremely traumatic time for all involved."

The IRFU and Ulster Rugby note the verdict handed down today at the Belfast Crown Court in relation to the case brought against Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding. We wish to acknowledge that this has undoubtedly been a difficult and extremely traumatic time for all involved.

To respect the judicial proceedings the IRFU and Ulster Rugby postponed any internal review of the matter with the players, until the proceedings concluded.

IRFU and Ulster Rugby officials will review the matter, in line with existing procedures for all contracted players. A Review Committee, made up of senior representatives of the IRFU and Ulster Rugby, has been appointed and will conclude its review as soon as practicable.

The players will continue to be relieved of all duties while the Review Committee is in process and determining its findings.

Rachael Krishna is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Rachael Krishna at rachael.krishna@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.