A juror in the rape trial which acquitted two Ireland rugby stars is being investigated over comments made online following a case which has lead to widespread protests.
Paddy Jackson and Ireland teammate Stuart Olding were acquitted of raping a 19-year-old woman at Mr Jackson’s home in Belfast following a night out in 2016.
The decision has led to huge demonstrations in Belfast, Londonderry, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Dublin and London, with protesters marching under placards proclaiming #ibelieveher.
Following a case which the rugby players’ lawyers said was dogged by ‘vile commentary’ on social media, a juror in the case is now being investigated over a post on a blog.
The probe was sparked after police questioned two people suspected of having broken the law by identifying the complainant in the case online.
And the fallout from the controversial case looks set to continue with organisers planning an even bigger protest tomorrow.
Paddy Jackson, 26, (left) and Stuart Olding, 25, (right) were accused of raping a woman at Jackson’s home and were both cleared this week
The verdicts sparked protests around Northern Ireland and Ireland, with hundreds of #IBelieveHer campaigners gathered in Dublin yesterday afternoon
Protesters Jessica O’Brien (left) and Merryn Sadlier with their homemade placards at the demonstration in Dublin on Thursday afternoon
Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief Justice is understood to have referred the case of the juror who wrote online to the country’s Attorney General.
The juror reportedly wrote on a blog defending the verdicts, despite the fact that jurors are told they must not tell anyone what happened in the jury room, over issues of contempt of court.
A spokesman for Attorney General John Larkin’s office confirmed that the matter had been referred to the region’s senior law officer by Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan.
Mr Larkin is to investigate whether the comments represent a breach of contempt of court laws.
The juror told The Irish Times: ‘I’m in big trouble. I’m sitting here in the kitchen waiting for the cops to arrive… all I’ve done is just, I made a posting about, this is why there was a return of not guilty.’
Two other people have been quizzed by police for allegedly revealing the identity of the woman who said she was raped by two Irish rugby stars.
#IBelieveHer campaigners protested in Dublin, Ireland, show support for women taking allegations before the courts
Pictured: Sisters Ava Gale Murphy and Moya Gale Murphy (right) at the protest
The woman’s name is said to have appeared in a number of social media posts which breaches her right to anonymity and is considered an offence in Ireland and the UK.
The high-profile case was surrounded by a whirlwind of commentary online, with Paddy Jackson’s lawyer hitting out at the ‘flood of misinformed, misconceived and malicious content on the internet’.
Following the trial, solicitor Joe McVeigh said: ‘Vile commentary expressed on social media going well beyond fair comment has polluted the sphere of public discourse and raised real concerns about the integrity of the trial process.
‘To that end we want to thank the learned trial Judge Patricia Smyth for her management of this trial in the face of an onslaught of toxic contempt, particularly on Twitter.
‘Several days of this trial were lost due to problems thrown up by the intrusive infection of the process by social media.’
Jackson, who played 25 times for Ireland, leaving Belfast Crown Court after the trial
The verdicts in the case prompted thousands of protesters brandishing placards reading ‘I Believe Her’ to take to the streets to express their dismay and offer support to victims of sexual assault.
The slogan quickly went viral on social media, with thousands across the UK expressing their support for the woman.
The protests were organised by two groups on Facebook: the ‘I Believe Her’ Facebook group and ‘Reclaim the Night Belfast’. Both are thought to have been influence by the MeToo movement which originated in the US.
The Dublin rally was organised on Facebook by a group of young women, who asked Ruth Coppinger, a member of the Irish parliament, to help spread the word.
Ms Coppinger yesterday gave a speech calling for a larger march tomorrow.
Noeline Blackwell, CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and women’s rights activist Kellie O’Dowd also spoke at a large rally in Dublin.
Jackson (pictured playing for Ireland) has not played at club or national level since he was charged in July last year
Mr Jackson and Mr Olding had gone home with a group of women after partying in the VIP section of Ollie’s nightclub in Belfast. Giving evidence, the alleged victim, now 21, claimed she was attacked in Mr Jackson’s home after going to fetch her bag from a bedroom.
She said she froze when he pulled down her trousers and raped her from behind, before Mr Olding walked in and allegedly made her perform a sex act on him at the same time.
The court heard key evidence from female partygoer Dara Florence, who accidentally walked in on the sexual encounter.
She described it as looking like a ‘threesome’ and said the woman did not look distressed, Belfast Crown Court heard.
The alleged victim had not mentioned the presence of the witness in early accounts of the night.
Defence lawyers argued she was embarrassed about being caught in a threesome, and had lied about being raped because she was worried photos of the incident could end up online.
Mr Jackson’s solicitor, Joe McVeigh, criticised the police investigation as ‘biased’ and said the rugby star had ‘paid a heavy price’. He said police had ignored inconsistencies in the woman’s evidence.
Taking to Twitter yesterday, the girlfriend of Olympic gold medallist Greg Rutherford accused rugby players of treating women ‘like meat’.