Why this story matters:
Almost two weeks since the verdict, commentators are still dissecting the trial, most particularly the Whatsapp messages sent between the men and their friends in the days following the alleged incident.
“Any sluts get f**ked?” asked one. “There was a bit of spit roasting going on last night fellas.” “Why are we all such legends?”
The trial has shone a harsh light on the toxic culture of sexual entitlement held towards women by some men. It has uncovered deep-held misogyny in certain corners of male professional sport, particularly rugby.
The case has also raised questions about consent, respect and the right to say no, as well as the importance of educating young people, now growing up with easy access to pornography on their smartphones.
Above all, however, it has exposed a criminal justice system which fails to support the victims of sexual violence, forcing them to endure a traumatic and adversarial process, as this Irish Times editorial published on the day of the verdict outlines. Is it any wonder that just one in ten sexual offences in Ireland is reported?
Details from the story:
- International players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were accused of raping a woman at a party. Also on trial were their friends Blane McIllroy, accused of exposing his genitals to the woman, and Rory Harrison, accused of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.
- The woman had to endure nine days of cross-examination on the stand, in front of members of the public, which were allowed in court (this is particular to the courts system in Northern Ireland, but would not be allowed in the Republic). Her underwear was passed around for all to see. Her sexual history and behavior were questioned.
- After 41 days, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty for all four men.