A lawyer for a friend of two Ireland and Ulster rugby players accused of rape has suggested police tried to "catch him off guard" when he voluntarily attended a police station.

Gavan Duffy QC, representing Rory Harrison, who denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information about the alleged rape in June 2016, was cross-examining a detective constable who conducted the police interviews.

Mr Duffy asked if a "deliberate decision" had been taken not to provide Mr Harrison with his statement in order to make the interview process more difficult.

He said: "Is it right that a senior officer gave you a direction not to give Mr Harrison his statement?"

The police officer said: "I believe that's correct."

Belfast Crown Court heard that Mr Harrison had voluntarily attended Musgrave PSNI Station in Belfast on 4 October 2016 on the understanding that he was making another witness statement.

He was not accompanied by a solicitor and waited four hours for his specified lawyer.

His barrister added: "Was it a deliberate decision not to tell Mr Harrison he was going to be interviewed under caution to catch him off guard?"

The officer answered: "Absolutely not. I have no evidence to suggest that."

The detective also noted that, by October, Mr Harrison's statement had become "police evidence".

During the course of the interviews, police had asked how Mr Harrison guessed his friends Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding had been accused of rape.

Given that his client knew police were investigating assault allegations and that the complainant had told him about non-consensual activity, it would have been "blindingly obvious", Mr Duffy suggested.

The officer said: "I wouldn't agree it would be blindingly obvious."

The high-profile case, in its 23rd day, is being heard before a jury of eight men and three women.

Paddy Jackson, 26, from Oakleigh Park in Belfast, and Stuart Olding, 24, from Ardenlee Street in the city, deny raping the same woman.

Stuart Olding and Paddy Jackson deny raping the same woman

Mr Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.

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

Further exchanges between Rory Harrison and Blane McIlroy were read out at Belfast Crown Court.

The day after the alleged attack Mr Harrison wrote to Blane McIlroy: "Mate the scenes last night were hilarious.

"Walked upstairs and there were more flutes than July 12."

"The cops went straight to Les Kiss" the jury heard today.

The reference to the then Ulster rugby coach was made by Mr Harrison to his friend Blane McIlroy following the arrest of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding in June 2016.

In a series of messages two days after the alleged rape, the friends discuss the arrests of Mr Jackson and Mr Olding with Mr McIlroy asking Mr Harrison if he knew the complainant's name.

Mr Harrison tells Mr McIlroy her name and says "hopefully it will be thrown out and tells his friend she is just a silly girl who has done something and then regretted it".

Mr Harrison also messages, "she is causing so much trouble for the lads".

In another text, Mr Harrison also tells Mr McIlroy, " the cops went straight to Les Kiss, which is f****** ridiculous".