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The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin. Leah Farrell

Midlands rape trial: Woman denies sexual activity in car was consensual

The woman at the centre of the case told the court today that she had been “badgered” for oral sex.

A WOMAN HAS denied that sexual activity in a car in the Midlands where she alleges she was sexually assaulted and raped by five men was consensual.

She also rejected suggestions during cross-examination that the atmosphere inside the vehicle was jovial or that her behaviour was “playful” or “high-spirited”.

Four of the five men are before the Central Criminal Court and have pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of sexual assault, rape and false imprisonment of the woman on 27 December 2016. The fifth man is not before the court.

Both the woman and the defendants are entitled to anonymity under the 1981 Rape Act.

The trial has heard that on the night the woman accepted an offer of a lift in the car from the five men after she had heard her name called from inside the vehicle. She got in and it drove off.

Yesterday, on her third day of cross examination, Colman Cody, SC, for one of the accused men suggested the atmosphere inside the car had been “jovial”.

“I don’t remember it being overly jovial,” the woman said in evidence.

She was reminded that she had told Gardaí when they interviewed her on 8 January 2017 that at an early stage of the journey, when the car driver appeared to be lost, she had offered to drive the car.

She said in evidence today that this was “kind of funny because I was only learning to drive”.

“I don’t know what my reason for asking to drive was,” said the woman.

“It sounds playful,” remarked Cody.

She agreed with Hugh Hartnett, SC, for another of the defendants, that when she was into the car, she also accepted an offer of a vape cigarette, even though she did not smoke.

“It does suggest friendly activity – high spirited, good form on everybody’s part,” he said.

“That was before anything happened,” the woman retorted.

She has described several of the men putting their hands up her dress or onto her breasts on the way to a remote location. She has alleged that at that location, each of the five sexually assaulted and raped her.

She has alleged that she was forced to give and receive oral sex in a different location car park in the Midlands town before she was able to leave the car and flee to a friend’s house.

She had been “badgered” for oral sex, she said in evidence.

Asked if any of the oral sex that ensued, both on her and by her, was consensual, she replied: “Absolutely not.”

Told by Seamus Clarke SC, for another of the accused, that his client believed all sexual acts with him were consensual, the woman replied: “Absolutely not. Again, that’s a lie.”

Cody said his client asserted that sexual activity in the front seat of the car, and again at the remote area was consensual, the woman replied: “Absolutely not… Neither of those acts were consensual by any means.”

When the car arrived at the remote area where each of the five men is alleged to have raped the woman in turn, Cody asked was the woman not concerned.

“Did you ask why are we stopped here, what are we doing here?” he asked.

“No, I don’t know why I didn’t ask,” she replied.

“But the fact of the matter is you didn’t,” remarked Cody.

The woman said: “I didn’t think it would make any difference if I asked why are we stopped here.”

She rejected suggestion from counsel that she had placed herself on the lap of one of the defendants and inserted him into her – she was thrusting herself up and down, suggested Cody.

“No, he had me on his hips and was moving me up and down,” said the woman.

“It would have required some degree of co-operation on your part,” said Cody.

She denied giving the car driver a kiss when she eventually left the vehicle.

Ask why, when she was free, she initially wanted to go to sleep and not call the guards, as friends insisted she do, she replied: “I didn’t want my parents to know… because I was stupid enough to get into a car with people I didn’t know. I wasn’t raised like that… It sounds funny, but I didn’t want to bring it home.”

In the event, she indicated that her parents had been very supportive of her.

Hartnett said his client asserted that he knew the woman’s name from engagement on Tinder and Facebook. Had he asked her to be friends, he asked.

No, replied the woman – “I’m waiting to find out [how he knew my name],” she replied.

“I’m going to suggest to you that is how,” said Hartnett.

“I have no recollection of that,” said the woman.

The fact that the woman could not explain why she had moved from the back seat of the car into the front, and back again was “significant”, said Hartnett.

“That is by far not the most significant thing,” retorted the woman.

Hartnett suggested there was no “inappropriate touching” of her when she initially got into the back seat.

“There was,” said the woman. “That’s why I got into the front seat.”

The trial continues tomorrow before Ms Justice Tara Burns and a jury of five women and seven men.