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Belfast rape trial jury continues deliberations

Belfast rape trial jury continues deliberations

The 11-person jury, comprising of eight men and three women, delivered not guilty verdicts at Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday.

Ulster flyhalf Jackson, 26, was also found not guilty on a separate charge of sexual assault after the jury deliberated for 3 hours and 45 minutes.

Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding, Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison have all been found not guilty of all charges.

Two other men have also been on trial on charges connected to the alleged incident.

Blane McIlroy (26), from Royal Lodge Road denies exposure, while 25-year old Rory Harrison, from Manse Road was charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Before sending the jurors out, Judge Patricia Smyth finished her summary of the evidence and she addressed the differences between the various accounts recalled by the defendants, which the prosecution claim supports their theory that a story was "cooked up" in case a complaint was made.

After nine weeks, the jury has now retired to begin its deliberations.

After weeks and weeks of evidence and closing speeches, the jurors were asked to begin their deliberations just before lunchtime.

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The judge told the jury that, at this stage: "The only verdict I can accept is a unanimous verdict".

Ms Smyth added: "It is entirely for you to decide".

Turning to the defendants, the judge said all had told the court they had been drunk on the night.

Meanwhile the judge also told the 11-person panel they had to determine whether inconsistencies in accounts from the defendants "amounted to a lie".

"She said the evidence is overwhelming that it is allowed to happen", the judge reminded the jury - adding that whether that was so for the young woman is for them to decide. The judge asked jurors to consider certain aspects including expert evidence from medics and messages sent.

They maintained from the outset that any sexual contact they had with her in Jackson's bedroom was purely consensual.

Equally, those who provide "manufactured" accounts may also "have difficulty being consistent".

The public gallery was also packed to capacity.