Belfast rape trial: Three key witnesses

Newstalk's Frank Greaney sums up the evidence

Belfast rape trial: Three key witnesses

Laganside Courts in Belfast. Picture by: Liam McBurney/PA Wire/PA Images

DARA FLORENCE

Of the 30-plus witnesses called during the trial, Dara Florence was arguably the most significant and was described as such on a number of occasions throughout.

She also went back to Paddy Jackson's home for an 'after party' in the early hours of June 28th 2016 and she was called to give evidence on February 13th.

She told the court she and her friend went upstairs at one point to look for another friend as they were preparing to leave. She said she heard "moaning" as she made her way up the stairs but she said it wasn't "distressed or anything like that" and she wouldn't have described it as sexual. She said the bed was straight in front of her when she opened the door.

"Paddy was sitting on his knees and the woman was up against him and they were having sex while her head was down towards Stuart Olding's middle. Paddy was penetrating her with his penis. He was thrusting into her," she said.

"I remember seeing more of her face and hair. It was like she turned her head away from me and Paddy asked if I wanted to join in. I said no and closed the door and kind of laughed and said to Clare (her friend) 'I've just seen a threesome'.

She said she didn't know the complainant before that night but she seemed like a nice girl and she remembered talking to her and dancing with her downstairs. She also told the court she didn't remember her being "overly drunk".

Under cross-examination by Brendan Kelly QC for Mr Jackson, she said she was sure the woman didn't show any signs of distress while she was in the room. She also stood over her statement to police that she didn't feel she had just witnessed a rape.

She said she didn't have any concern when she left the room. When asked about her claim Paddy was having sex with the woman, she said she was "100% sure" she saw sex from his movement.

STEPHEN FISHER

In his opening address to the jury at the end of January, the prosecuting barrister Toby Hedworth QC said a "significant witness to be traced was Stephen Fisher - the driver of the taxi which took Rory Harrison and the complainant home".

Mr Fisher told the court he was working in the early hours of June 28th 2016 and was parked at the Ravenhill Road filling station when he received a call from his control room to pick up a fare at the garage.

The BP filling station is just around the corner from Paddy Jackson's home in south Belfast.

The fare was booked under the name 'Harrison'. When they got into the back of his Ford Galaxy people carrier, he said the woman "definitely seemed very upset and was crying and sobbing throughout".

"She didn't talk very much at all bar telling me where she needed to go. The man (Rory Harrison) was attempting to comfort her and was holding onto her. Her head was placed on his chest and he was trying to comfort her," he said.

Mr Fisher also said Mr Harrison either received or made a call in the back of the taxi on the way to the complainant's house. He said he was "talking in code" and he recalled him saying:

"She's with me now. She's not good. I'll call you in the morning".

Subsequent police enquiries revealed a call was made from Mr Harrison's phone to his friend and co-accused Blane McIlroy at 5:09am. The court heard the call lasted approx. two minutes.

Mr Harrison said he had no memory of the call and his barrister Arthur Harvey QC asked the jury why he wouldn't have waited until he got home to make that call if he didn't want anyone to hear what he was saying.

Mr Fisher described the woman as "unsteady on her feet" as she walked up her driveway with the assistance of Mr Harrison.

He said he thought he noticed some staining on the backside area of her white trousers but he said it "wasn't really unusual".When Mr Harrison returned to the cab, he said he remembered saying "did you have a rough night last night?" and he replied "you have no idea" or "you could say that".

He said he felt it wasn't his business to ask any further so he just drove him to his address.

"When police contacted me, everything resonated with me and I knew straight away what it was in relation to," he said.

DR PHILIP LAVERY

Dr Philip Lavery is a forensic medical examiner at the Rowan Sexual Assault Referral Clinic (SARC) which is approx. 30km north of Belfast city centre.

The court heard the woman attended the clinic on the evening of June 28th 2016 and was a 'self-referral'. In other words, she didn't go to the police beforehand.

When he was called to give evidence, Dr Lavery read out the note he took of her account of what she claimed happened to her. It read: "She went to address after nightclub, man came on to her, refused his advances, decided to leave, went upstairs to get bag, man followed her, pushed her down onto bed face down, took down her trousers and underwear and vaginally raped her from behind, turned her over and raped her from front, no condom, unsure re: ejaculation, sex was rough, vaginal bleeding - second man vaginally raped her while she was on her back - third man entered and took off trousers - second man got off her and she took her trousers and ran away".

The defence teams returned to this recorded history on a number of occasions throughout the trial because, they argued, it contained a number of inconsistencies when compared with the final version of events as delivered by her in court.

For starters, the woman told Dr Lavery she was vaginally raped by two men but later said she was vaginally raped by Paddy Jackson only and accused Stuart Olding of forcing her to perform oral sex on him.

She also said the third man (Blane McIlroy) took his trousers off when he entered the room, but later said he was "completely naked" when he came in.

She also made no mention of oral sex.

When asked why she left it out, she told the court she wasn't aware at the time that forced oral sex constituted rape.

The defence suggest these inconsistencies support their theory that she lied about what happened because she regretted having a consensual threesome and was worried she had been filmed doing so.

When asked about the inconsistencies, the complainant described her time at the clinic as "stressful".

She said she was being "bombarded" with questions and "things slip your mind" in those situations. During her charge to the jurors before they began their deliberations, Judge Patricia Smyth addressed the issue of inconsistencies and urged the jurors not to make the assumption the evidence she gave them was untrue just because she said something different to someone else.

During his physical examination of the complainant, Dr Lavery said he noticed a 1cm bleeding laceration on her vaginal wall. He said it was located 2-3cm inside the opening of the vagina. He said it would have been caused by "blunt force trauma" but he wasn't able to say exactly what caused it and he wasn't able to assist the court on the issue of consent.

The following day the defence was allowed to call its own medical expert out of sequence. Dr Janet Wall was invited to watch a recording taken by Dr Lavery purporting to show the tear on the inside of the woman's vagina.

"It didn't show me the laceration," she said, but she accepted the quality of the recording wasn't great. She also said she would have expected the external structures of the vagina to be damaged if the tear was caused by the excessive force of an erect penis as suggested by the defence.

If you have been affected by anything mentioned in this article you can contact the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre National 24-Hour helpline on 1800-77-88-88