Irish senator apologises for rape trial tweet

An Irish Senator has apologised for a tweet he posted about the rape trial of two rugby internationals.

Aodhan O Riordain said the message had not been designed to suggest the men involved were guilty.

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Earlier this month Paddy Jackson, 26, and team mate Stuart Olding, 25, were unanimously acquitted of raping the same woman by a jury that deliberated for three hours and 45 minutes after a nine week trial at Belfast Crown Court.

The jury of eight men and three women also returned a unanimous not guilty verdict to a sexual assault charge against Jackson.

Two other men were acquitted of lesser charges connected to the alleged incident in June 2016.

In his tweet, posted on March 28 - the day of the verdict - the Labour senator praised the woman at the centre of the case and questioned the outcome.

He later deleted the message.

Rugby players court case
Rugby players court case

Jackson's solicitors KRW Law said they had no choice but to launch defamation proceedings.

However, in a post on Monday, Mr Riordain said: "My tweet of March 28 concerning the Belfast rape trial was not designed or intended to suggest that either Paddy Jackson or any of the other accused men were guilty or that the jury got it wrong.

"I apologise for any suggestion to the contrary. I accept that I was not privy to all the evidence put before the jury during the trial.

"I will not be making any further comment."

Damages are not believed have been paid.

The high-profile trial, which ran for 42 days, generated an unprecedented level of public attention and prompted calls from Jackson's defence solicitor Joe McVeigh for a crackdown on social media comment during criminal proceedings.

It has also renewed the debate on whether defendants in rape trials should also be entitled to anonymity, with their names only being revealed if they are convicted.

Meanwhile, it has also emerged that online comments posted by a juror are being investigated by Northern Ireland's Attorney General.

Police are also investigating those who identified the complainant online.