1. ITV Report

Rape trial hears from friend of alleged victim

Rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding. Credit: Pacemaker

A friend of the woman who has accused two Ulster and Ireland rugby players of rape has told a court the alleged victim would not lie to her.

The woman, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the complainant, was the first person to be told of the alleged rape almost two years ago.

In evidence to Belfast Crown Court, she said: “I assumed she was telling the truth. She would not be lying to me.”

The woman was being cross-examined by a barrister representing 26-year-old Paddy Jackson, from Oaklee Park in Belfast, who denies rape and sexual assault.

Brendan Kelly QC had asked whether the two friends had any discussion about the importance of telling the truth.

Meanwhile, the woman was also cross-examined on a text exchange in which the complainant said she wanted to speak to “someone legally” about the alleged incident.

The witness said: “Statistics generally are not in your favour and I presumed she was going to speak to someone about that.”

Pressed further on the matter, she added: “I think she wanted to get actual legal advice.”

However, she said she was unsure what, if anything, was discussed.

Earlier, the court heard how the two women had discussed rape in text exchanges days before the alleged attack.

When asked why the witness had expressed a reluctance to go to the police, she answered: “I guess from what is going on in this room. It is daunting, it is quite horrible and you get blamed ...

“It is a distressing process.”

When asked to explain further comments in which she had suggested blackmailing or stabbing rapists, the woman answered: “That was quite clearly a joke.”

Jackson and his teammate Stuart Olding, 24 and from Ardenlee Street in Belfast, both deny raping the same woman on June 28 2016.

Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.

Blane McIlroy, 26 and from Royal Lodge Road in the Ballydollaghan area of Belfast, denies exposure, while Rory Harrison, 25 and from Manse Road in Belfast, denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.