A review is to be carried out into how Northern Ireland's criminal justice system deals with serious sexual assault cases.

The review will be led by former High Court judge John Gillen and will examine several of the issues raised during a recent rape trial in Belfast.

Former Ulster and Ireland rugby player Paddy Jackson was acquitted of rape and sexual assault, while his team-mate Stuart Olding was found not guilty of rape following the nine-week trial.

Two other defendants, Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison, were acquitted of less serious charges. 

During the trial, both Mr Jackson and Mr Olding had denied raping the same woman at a house in south Belfast on 28 June 2016.

Mr Jackson had denied a further charge of sexual assault.

Mr McIlroy had denied exposure while Mr Harrison denied perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

The high-profile trial was originally scheduled for five weeks but lasted for nine weeks at Belfast Crown Court.

In total, 30 witnesses gave evidence, including the four defendants and the complainant whose testimony was heard over eight separate days, and verdicts were returned on day 42.


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Former High Court judge John Gillen will lead the review

The review announced today flows from the debate that followed the trial.

The issues it will examine include:

  • Disclosure of evidence
  • Support for victims and witnesses
  • Measures to ensure the anonymity of the complainant
  • The arguments for defendant anonymity
  • The impact of social media on trials
  • Reporting restrictions
  • Public attendance at trials.

The review is expected to be completed by January of next year.