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Man pleads guilty to naming complainant in Belfast rape trial

Sean McFarland was fined £300 for the offence.

Paddy Jackson (left) and Stuart Olding were both found not guilty, alongside the other two defendants.
Paddy Jackson (left) and Stuart Olding were both found not guilty, alongside the other two defendants.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Images

POLICE IN NORTHERN Ireland have welcomed the conviction of a man who revealed the identity of the woman at the centre the Belfast rape trial earlier this year. 

Sean McFarland was convicted today after he breached the lifetime ban on reporting the complainant’s identity, the first time that anyone in Northern Ireland had been prosecuted for breaching this right to anonymity.

McFarland was fined £300 for naming the woman. 

In a statement today, Detective Chief Inspector Zoe McKee from the PSNI’s Public Protection Branch said that McFarland’s conviction “should act as a deterrent to anyone who names a complainant in any serious sexual offence, who are entitled to lifelong anonymity.”

McKee said that the Northern Ireland police force “is fully committed to investigating offences of this nature.”

“We understand how difficult it can be for anyone to report a rape,” she said. “I would encourage anyone who has been the victim of any sexual crime either recently or in the past to contact police or to speak to someone about what has happened.”

The 42-day trial concluded with Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding being found not guilty of raping the complainant in the case – a female student – in the early morning of Tuesday 28 June 2016.

A third man, Blane McIlroy was found not guilty of exposure while a fourth, Rory Harrison, was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

The trial was the subject of intense media and public focus with concerns raised throughout about the use of social media.

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