PSNI question two in connection with naming of Belfast rape trial complainant online

PSNI question two in connection with naming of Belfast rape trial complainant online

The PSNI have questioned two people for allegedly revealing the identity of the complainant in the Belfast rape trial online.

Detective Chief Superintendent Paula Hillman had said on Wednesday the complainant in the trial of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding was illegally named by some people on social media.

This is against the law as complainants in rape trials in Ireland and the UK are entitled to anonymity.

A spokesperson for the PSNI said two people had been interviewed in relation to an offence under section five of the UK's Sexual Offences Amendment Act 1992, which prohibits the publication of the name or images of a rape complainant.

The spokesperson said two files have been sent to the North's Public Prosecution Service and their investigation is ongoing.

The high-profile trial, which ran for 42 days, generated an unprecedented level of public attention and prompted calls from Jackson's defence solicitor 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.

In another post-trial development, a number of media outlets are challenging reporting restrictions still placed on the case.

Restrictions preventing reporting on legal exchanges that take place in the absence of the jury usually fall away once the case is over, as the issue of prejudicing jurors is no longer relevant.

A number of outlets that covered the marathon trial are now seeking to get ongoing restrictions imposed by Judge Patricia Smyth lifted.

While the issue has been listed for a mention hearing before the judge on April 25, lawyers for press and broadcasters are endeavouring to have the matter dealt with next week.

On the day of Paddy Jackson's acquittal, DCS Hillman had said on Wednesday: "She was named on social media sites contrary to the trial, contrary to her legal entitlement.

"Any breach of this entitlement is and will be investigated."

Also on Wednesday, Paddy Jackson'ss solicitor Joe McVeigh QC said: "Vile commentary expressed on social media, going well beyond fair comment, has polluted the sphere of public discourse and raised real concerns about the integrity of the trial process.

"Several days of this trial were lost due to problems thrown up by the intrusive infection of the process by social media.

"All the lawyers were distracted by having to man the barriers against the flood of misinformed, misconceived and malicious content on the internet, particularly during the last phase of this trial, and worryingly even at the hands of public servants who should have known better.

"There is no reason to believe that this problem will not worsen."

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