Documentary on One

Notes From A Belfast Rape Trial

The so-called, 'Belfast Rape Trial' led to widespread media coverage, social media comment and street protests. The nine-week case - from January to March 2018 - ended with the jury finding all four men who stood trial not guilty on all charges. (2018)

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Documentary-maker: Ronan Kelly

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Documentary maker: Liam O'Brien

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Notes From A Belfast Rape Trial

"The last thing I want is a girl crying leaving my house."  So said Paddy Jackson, referring to a party in his house in June 2016.

But a woman did leave that party crying. The reason for her tears was the subject of a rape trial which took place in Belfast in the early months of 2018.

The so-called, 'Belfast Rape Trial' led to widespread media coverage, social media comment and street protests. Irish rugby captain, Rory Best, was criticised for attending the court.

Four defendants stood trial in this case. By late March 2018, when the trial ended, the jury returned unanimous not guilty verdicts on all charges - to all of the four men involved.

Two of the defendants, ex-Ulster and Ireland rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were found not guilty of raping a female student at a house party in June 2016, with Jackson also being found not guilty of sexual assault.

The other two defendants in the same case Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison were also found not guilty on all charges.

This documentary features the two leading barristers in the case. 

Toby Hedworth QC for the Prosecution says, "The vast majority of rape cases arrive from a situation where two people have been in private and there are no witnesses. One says something happened - other says it happened with consent."

Brendan Kelly QC for Paddy Jackson on his decision to introduce the complainant’s bloodied underwear into court,  "The case has to be put to the witness. It's not for the barrister to say, ‘You know what, that's just a little bit too unpleasant - or that's a little bit too detailed or there's a little bit too much graphic in that."

Although the trial ended on March 28, it’s still generating headlines.  Ruth Coppinger TD mentioned it in the Dáil lately, when she produced a thong to make a point about the treatment of witnesses in rape trials.

And this week (Nov 20th 2018), the Gillen Review Panel in Northern Ireland, published a preliminary report recommending changes around serious sexual assault trials.  Many of those changes are referred to in the documentary. 

For example, the panel recommended excluding members of the public from rape trials (as is the case in the Republic).  The panel argued that it’s difficult enough to testify in court about such intimate matters without having to do it in front of an audience.  We spoke to members of the public who attended the Belfast rape trial. They included people who popped in to have a look during their lunch and even a woman with a young boy. But they also included people who had worked all their lives in the legal profession, like a retired judge as well as law students at the beginning of their careers.

Documentary On One: Notes From A Belfast Rape Trial is a difficult listen. You are put in the position of the jury - you have to listen to some quite graphic testimony but you also get a sense of why that jury decided - much to the anger of protestors - that they could not say, beyond reasonable doubt, that rape had taken place in Paddy Jackson’s house on that June night in 2016. The jury found all four men who stood trial relating to the Belfast Rape Trial not guilty on all charges.

If you've been affected by any issues contained within this documentary, please visit the RTÉ Support page for Helpline information

Narrated by Emer Horgan and Ronan Kelly

Readings by Tara Campbell, Cara O'Hare, Sinéad Mooney and Niaill O Síoradáin

Produced by Ronan Kelly and Liam O'Brien

First Broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1 @2pm Saturday November 24th, 2018

Documentary on One is the home of Irish radio documentaries and the largest library of documentary podcasts available anywhere in the world. We tell stories, mostly Irish ones, about Irish people and Irish events.

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