Footballer apologises for rape trial tweet

Drogheda United soccer player Luke Rossiter has said he “doesn’t really know” why he tweeted that he was “delighted for Paddy Jackson” and why he criticised the complainant following last week’s Belfast rape trial verdict.

“It was a stupid and immature thing to do,” he wrote in a statement on the club website yesterday. “It is clear I still have some growing up to do in relation to how I conduct myself off the pitch as well as on it.”

He said that if the club and fans can forgive him, he wants to “start that growing” by donating any money he receives from Drogheda United for the remainder of the season to the Rape Crisis North East in Dundalk.

“I would also like to offer my time to promote awareness of such sensitive issues and I am keen to learn how such issues can impact and affect people’s lives,” he said.

Drogheda United said that while it acknowledges the player’s “whole-hearted apology”, an internal investigation is still ongoing.

“Drogheda United is also carrying out a review of club policy and plan to educate all players and staff in relation to the impact their opinions and actions can have on others,” it said. “Luke Rossiter has been informed that he will not be considered for selection until such time that the investigation is completed and reviewed.”

Meanwhile, the National Women’s Council of Ireland has welcomed Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan’s decision to review the prosecution process in sexual violence cases here.

NWCI said the review is “an important step on the road to a prosecution process which supports victims of violence against women and which holds perpetrators to account, while respecting the rights of the accused”.

“In recent days, we have heard many women coming forward to share their experiences of the criminal justice system after they have reported a rape,” said Cliona Loughnane, NWCI’s Women’s Health Co-ordinator. “It is clear from many of these testimonies that the prosecution system does not currently support victims as well as it should, nor does it adequately hold perpetrators to account.”

She said NWCI welcomes the review of the legal protection offered to complainants in sexual assault cases, the assessment as to how cases could be dealt with quicker and the commitment to examine whether additional training is required for all those involved in the criminal justice system.

NWCI also welcomed the minister’s commitment to update the national survey on sexual violence, which was last published in 2002.

“We cannot begin to address men’s violence against women until we know the scale of the problem, and cannot continue to write policy without the necessary data,” said Dr Loughnane.

“The recent case in Belfast has highlighted the urgent need to ensure all parts of the criminal justice system... are supporting women who report rape.

“We have had repeated criticism from international human rights bodies of our high attrition rates, and NWCI looks forward to meeting with the minister for justice to examine how our prosecution process can properly support victims of violence against women and hold perpetrators to account, while respecting the rights of the accused.”

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