Northern Ireland

Paddy Jackson's lawyer calls for rape trial changes

Joe McVeigh and Paddy Jackson Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Joe McVeigh (left) was Paddy Jackson's solicitor during the trial in which he was cleared of rape

One of the defence solicitors involved in the trial of two Ireland and Ulster rugby players cleared of rape has said the legal system needs to change.

Joe McVeigh, who acted for Paddy Jackson in the case, said there were a number of legal issues that need to be addressed.

These included more protections to stop the complainant being identified.

Mr Jackson, Stuart Olding and two other men were cleared of all charges on Wednesday.

Mr McVeigh's comments came on the same day that a number of rallies were held across the island of Ireland by protestors unhappy at the verdicts.

Protests held over trial verdicts

A number of rallies have taken place across the island of Ireland by protestors unhappy at the not-guilty verdicts delivered to Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding and two other men.

Despite the acquittals, many people have expressed their dissatisfaction at how the trial progressed as well as the verdicts - particularly on social media, using the hashtag #IBelieveHer,

About 2,000 people took part in a demonstration in the centre of Dublin, while about 1,000 people attended a rally in Belfast at the Laganside Courthouse, where the trial took place.

Image caption About 1,000 people attended a protest at Belfast's Laganside Courthouse

There have also been protests in towns and cities including Londonderry, Cork and Limerick.

Support for the protests has been linked to other equality and social campaigns, such as efforts to repeal abortion laws in the Republic and the #MeToo movement.

The four accused have also been shown considerable support on social media, with people using similar hashtags to show their backing of the men.

Mr Jackson's solicitor told Irish national broadcaster RTÉ that the woman at the centre of the trial, which finished on Wednesday, and her family, had been let down.

"They were given assurances before this trial would have commenced that that young woman's identity would be kept secret," Mr McVeigh said.

Social media prejudice

"It's impossible to do that when you have got an open court filled to the brim with members of the public for nine solid weeks, where her name is used openly throughout the trial.

"Our system here in the north currently pays lip service to those types of protections. The system in the south is the way it should go at the very least."

Meanwhile, Mr Olding's solicitor said there needed to be better legal protections for defendants in rape cases, as well as for those making the allegations against them.

Paul Dougan told BBC News NI there should be a public debate about granting anonymity during trials to those accused of rape. They would only be named if found guilty.

"If it benefited the system and it recalibrated the sense of fairness that I think in this case has perhaps been lost somewhat - in the nature of the exposure of the persons involved - then I think it would be a conversation worth having," he said.

The former Stormont Justice minister, David Ford, told BBC NI's The View programme that the system should be reviewed.

"There are no easy answers to balancing the rights of defendants and complainants, but I think it certainly merits re-examination at this stage," he said.

In the Republic of Ireland, unlike Northern Ireland, people accused of rape are not publicly identified unless they are found guilty and members of the public are not allowed to attend trial hearings.

DUP MP Ian Paisley has said he will seek a change in the law that will allow people accused of rape to retain their anonymity unless they are convicted.

Mr McVeigh also called for action to stop trials being prejudiced on social media.

He said: "We invite the office of the lord chief justice, the attorney general and the Public Prosecution Service to enter into fresh discussions with us to look at more robust mechanisms that can strike an effective balance between everyone's rights but that properly secure the integrity of our criminal justice system."

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