Rape accused rugby star 'has told the truth, warts and all'
An Ireland and Ulster rugby player on trial for rape has told the truth, warts and all, a court has heard.
Stuart Olding, who denies raping a woman in June 2016, has also welcomed the opportunity to put his account before a jury, according to his defence counsel.
Frank O'Donoghue QC told Belfast Crown Court: "Finally that someone might listen to him and decide, he told the truth, warts and all.
"The reality is there was no rape by Stuart Olding.
"There is no case here.
"There was no force used.
"There was consent on both sides.
"Perhaps a matter of regret now to all parties but such is life."
The remarks were made as Mr O'Donoghue ended his two-hour closing submission to the jury of eight men and three women.
Turning to face them, he added: "Stuart Olding is innocent in this charge. I implore you do do your duty."
Olding, 25, from Ardenlee Street in Belfast, has pleaded not guilty to raping a woman at a house party on June 28 2016.
His team-mate and friend, Paddy Jackson, 26, from Oakleigh Park in the city, also denies rape and a further charge of sexual assault.
Two other men are also on trial in connection with the alleged incident.
Blane McIlroy, 26, from Royal Lodge Road in Belfast, denies exposure, while Rory Harrison, 25, from Manse Road in the city, denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.
Mr O'Donoghue suggested that his client had been let down "very, very badly" by the authorities, adding that the case was "never properly investigated".
"He has asked no favours, he has pulled no strings," the barrister said.
"His career has been very badly damaged as a result of what has happened. Indeed, perhaps his and Paddy Jackson's profile has been an unnecessary complicating factor in this case."
The court heard that Olding had returned from a rugby tour of South Africa, having regained his place on the Irish team after two years of career-threatening injuries.
Mr O'Donoghue said: "His career was on the up. He had everything to live for.
"You have seen him on CCTV. You have seen him in photographs. He had been on the go for at least 24 hours, if not more.
"Was he someone who was going out to rape someone? A man with no history of violence; I suggest even the suggestion is nonsense."
Referring to explicit WhatsApp messages in which Olding bragged about sexual exploits to friends the morning after the alleged attack, Mr O'Donoghue said he had simply been "acting the big lad".
They had no evidential value but were put before the court as a "titillating sideshow" to create prejudice, the barrister suggested.
"The social media texts are only bragging," said Mr O'Donoghue.
"He is suitably ashamed of what he wrote. But nowhere in his texts will you find one word that comes remotely near that anything that he was involved in was non-consensual."
The high-profile trial, originally scheduled to last five weeks, has now entered its eighth week.
Last week jurors heard closing speeches from the prosecution and a barrister representing Jackson.
Mr O'Donoghue was critical of the police investigation.
"They should have dug much deeper than they did," he said, "as even scraping the surface of this case, the sheer unreliability of the complainant's complaint comes to the fore."
Prosecution claims that Olding's clothing, which was not seized, was of little evidential value were dismissed as "utter tosh".
Mr O'Donoghue said: "He has never shied away from telling anyone who would listen to him what happened.
"He has undoubtedly told the truth, warts and all."
Earlier, the barrister outlined more than a dozen questions he believed should have been put to the complainant by police.
"Why did she not say no?" he said. "Why did she open her mouth? Why didn't she scream? A lot of very middle-class girls were downstairs; they were not going to tolerate a rape or anything like that. Why didn't she scream the house down?"
The police investigation was flawed, he further suggested.
He put it to the court: "You have an ABE (achieving best evidence) interview devoid of detail on the allegation that was an assumption of force. And a police force that never truly studied what's being said and what questions needed to be asked.
"If you look at the evidence in chief, it is of necessity completely devoid of relevant and essential detail."
He also said it was of "hopeless quality".
The investigation of the woman's allegations against Olding was "at best poor" and "at worst, virtually non existent".
Prosecution allegations of a "conspiracy" between all four defendants were also dealt with during the lengthy speech.
Mr O'Donoghue said Olding's police interviews in which he gave a "frank" account of events were proof of truth.
"He told them that he had eight cans of Carlsberg, four pints of Guinness, two gin and tonics, five vodkas and lemonade, and three shots over the course of the evening. That sounds like a really good conspiracy, doesn't it?" the barrister asked the jury.
"He's not afraid to tell police a fact or facts that do not weigh in his favour.
"It is hardly in his favour to tell the police he had 20 alcoholic drinks."
The lawyer also suggested that Olding's accounts were further "verified" by independent witnesses.
He is "credible but also inherently reliable. You can rely on what he has said," added Mr O'Donoghue.
"This is why there is not only reasonable doubt about this belated allegation but also it proves the innocence of Stuart Olding in relation to this allegation."
The prosecution allege that Olding forced the woman to perform oral sex, the court was told.
However Mr O'Donoghue suggested: "Mr Olding has made the case that the act was entirely consensual."
The lawyer invited jurors to "study the evidence" in order to "root out" inconsistencies.
H"Do not judge the book by its cover. Do not assume that because an account appears plausible it must therefore be true."
He said: "It does not come remotely near the required standard to render you sure that Stuart Olding orally raped the complainant in June 2016.
"If, on the evidence, you cannot be sure, then it is your duty to acquit.
"We, the court, the jury, must never be party to any miscarriage of justice. We must avoid that at all costs."
The case continues.