Belfast rape trial: What Rory Harrison says

Newstalk's Frank Greaney sums up the evidence

Belfast rape trial: What Rory Harrison says

Rory Harrison arriving at Langanside Courts in Belfast | Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Rory Harrison is the only one of the four defendants not facing any sexual offences.

He is accused of perverting the course of justice by lying to police when he gave a witness statement about his dealings with the woman and deliberately omitting information.

He's also accused of withholding information from the police which was likely to secure, or be of material assistance in securing, the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of any person.

The prosecution claim after he made his witness statement, he continued to withhold information about the true level of her distress, what he had seen of his co-accused after she had been with them and the fact he had been told by her a matter of hours after she left the house that what happened was not consensual - the prosecution say that is a vital piece of information in circumstances where, as he later told police, he had guessed the allegation was rape. He denies both charges.

Mr Harrison took the stand on a special Saturday sitting on March 10th.

He said he had six cans of beer in Blane McIlroy's house before they went out on June 27th 2016. He said he had four pints of Guinness and a few G&Ts in Cutters Wharf before they went to Ollie's nightclub where he had "a fair few more drinks".

Outside Oakleigh Park in Belfast, where Paddy Jackson's house is located | Image: Frank Greaney

Back at the 'after party' at Paddy Jackson's house, he said he was playing music for most of the night and was mostly chatting to Dara Florence. He said he didn't remember talking to the complainant but accepted he could have been.

"At one point while I was chatting to Dara, I noticed over her shoulder that she (the complainant) was sitting on a sofa and staring at Paddy. People often stare at him because he's famous but I just thought she was staring at him a bit longer than most," he said.

"I noticed her following him upstairs shortly afterwards and thought she was following him because she'd been staring at him," he added.

Mr Harrison said the other girls left and he was left on his own so he decided to go home and tried to call a taxi but there were none in the area.

"After seeing her (the complainant) go upstairs, the next time I saw her was when I went upstairs to say goodbye to Patrick. I saw her just standing at the top of the stairs. I walked past her and put the head into Patrick's door. He was lying on the far side of the bed under the covers but they weren't entirely covering him.

"I didn't notice anyone else in the room at the time and I could see all of his body apart from his lower legs. He was naked. He grunted at me. He was only half-awake and said he'd see me later. I went into the den where I saw Stuart (Olding) and another girl. I thought some sexual activity had taken place between them," he said.

Mr Harrison said he then went back downstairs and sat on the sofa again. He said he remembered thinking he was going to leave when the complainant came in.

"She seemed a bit quiet and a little but upset," he said. "I may have asked her if she was ok but I'm not certain".

After failing to get a taxi over the phone, Mr. Harrison told the court he decided to go outside to flag one. He said he decided to walk to the garage at the top of the road.

"When he got a taxi, she was definitely a bit more upset. She was crying at this stage," he said.

His barrister Gavan Duffy QC reminded him that the complainant had told the jurors she returned to the house after leaving and Mr Harrison accepted that was possible.

Mr Duffy QC also reminded him that she said she came down the stairs and saw him in the hallway and that she didn't pass him on the stairs, to which he replied "she may have done. I didn't see her anytime I was in the hall. Seeing her on the landing is the truth".

Mr Duffy QC asked him what he had to say to her claim that she ran out of the house and he ran after her. "No, that's not correct," was his answer.

File photo

Mr Harrison was asked about a phone call to Blane McIlroy while he was in the taxi with the complainant. The driver Stephen Fisher gave evidence of him "talking in code" on the phone and he told the jury he only caught snippets of the conversation like "I'm with her now ... she's not good ... I'll call you in the morning".

Subsequent police enquires revealed the call was placed from his phone to Blane's at 5:09am and lasted two minutes and nine seconds. Mr Harrison said he didn't remember making that call and he said he had no reason to "codify" a conversation with Blane.

If he didn't want anyone to hear what he was saying, he told the court he wouldn't have made the call in the taxi.

He also said he didn't remember her leaning up against his chest in the back of the taxi but he accepted it was possible.

After dropping her home and walking her up her driveway, the court heard Mr Harrison text the woman which read: "keep the chin up you wonderful woman".

He said he didn't remember exchanging texts with her and had no idea why she was upset. "I thought he'd maybe been rejected by Patrick," he said.

He denied knowing or believing she had been the victim of rape at that time and said he was just trying to comfort her because she seemed upset. He was asked why he text her that morning asking if she was feeling better and he said "I was just trying to be nice because she had been upset."

Just after 12.00pm that day, the court heard Blane text Mr Harrison to ask if he calmed her, to which he replied: "Mate no joke she was in hysterics. Wasn't going to end well. Aye just threw her home and went back to mine."

When asked about those texts, Mr Harrison said: "That was not my exact opinion that she was in 'hysterics' when she left. It's just a turn of phrase; an exaggeration. A girl we didn't know staring at Paddy and followed him upstairs. And then I saw her crying. I just thought 'that's not great'."

In relation to the text where he said "...wasn't going to end well," Mr. Harrison said "I wasn't suggesting this rape or sexual assault wasn't going to end well".

Mr Duffy QC also asked him about the text he received from the complainant to say what happened the night before wasn't consensual.

"My initial reaction was shock that something had happened that she wasn't consenting to but I've known Patrick since I was eight and he's the last person in the world who would rape something. I thought she had done something and regretted it," he said.

"Patrick is a man of very good character. He's the same guy I knew at mini-rugby despite everything. He hasn't been changed by success at all. I didn't take it seriously," he added.

At 1.05pm, the court heard Mr Harrison text Blane to say "Mate, the scenes last night were hilarious". Mr McIlroy replied "Was a good night, I loved it," and then received the following reply from his friend: "Walked upstairs and there were more flutes than the 12th of July".

When Mr Duffy QC asked his client about that response, Mr Harrison said "it was a joke" and he wouldn't have joked about a rape.

The Soul Food Café in Belfast | Image: Frank Greaney

He said there wasn't any mention of any cover up when he met his three friends for lunch in Soul Food café an hour later.

"It's a small restaurant with not much distance between tables. It's not the place to have a private or secret conversation. There was also no conversation about the 'not consensual' text. I didn't tell Patrick about it because I didn't believe it and I didn't want to worry him about something I had no faith in being true. I didn't think anything would come of it".

When he gave a witness statement to police after a complaint was made two days later, Mr Harrison denied intentionally holding anything back and he said he didn't lie to the officers.

He again denied there was a conspiracy to concoct a story.

The court he didn't mention anything about the texts exchanged with the complainant after dropping her home, particularly the "not consensual" text and when asked about that under cross-examination, he told the prosecuting barrister Toby Hedworth QC that he would have told the police officers if they asked him if he had any subsequent contact with her, but they didn't.

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