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Accountability

Express Your Opinion – If You Can Afford It?

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A recent rape trial where a number of people were found legal “innocent” has again highlighted changes in the way certain matters should be better dealt with, both in legal terms and in court procedures. Much has been raised in concern about how the possible victim was interrogated on a stand for a reported eight days while the then accused was just reported to be questioned in the same place for just up to one day.

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Mentioned.

It was reported after the case concluded, that there was previously a 1cm laceration found on a young girls vagina – blood found on the victim’s trousers – blood found on a defendant’s duvet – that a taxi driver saw blood on a woman’s trousers (who then was worried so much that his taxi was soiled, possible affecting later work, he had to get out and examine his back seats)  – a taxi driver reportedly saw the girl as very inconsolable (one defendant says he don’t remember her crying) – a taxi driver overheard one of the accused reportedly talking in ‘code’ – one defendant deleted a multitude of texts – one defendant had his whole phone wiped – some defendants unusually met each other the next day – one witness reportedly saw a sex act involving three people despite one defendant saying there was no sex – after the reported previous and more, the eventual verdict was still “innocent”. The burden of proof for a guilty verdict was not 100%. A juror could 1% or 98% believe that someone could have been raped but 100% was demanded according to the legal rules. As this standard was not met, accused were found “innocent”.

Questions: From a technical point of view, phone companies reportedly keep copies of transferred text messages on their I.T. servers for a time – text messages which have been transferred previously and then deleted off people’s phones. Police around the world have been able to produce copies of these text messages in court despite they vanishing off a person’s phone. Why was this not possible in this particular case? Would in such a serious matter, a witness lie to an alleged threesome? Would a taxi driver go to the bother of lying on such a serious matter?

What is known, is that reportedly on an communication application (“WhatsApp”) used some of the defendants, the following phrasings were said to be passed between them:

  • ‘Spit roasting’ (definition: “A sexual activity involving 3 people” – LINK)
  • ‘She was very loose’
  • ‘Any sluts get fucked?’
  • ‘Merry go round at the carnival’
  • ‘Legends/top shaggers’
  • ‘Threw her home and then went back to mine’
  • ‘Flutes 12th July’

It has to be stated that the meanings which people might read into the above, have been denied by defendants as the way they could be read. A question now has been raised by many people across the width and length of Ireland (and possible beyond) after discovering about the reported transferred comments. The question now being asked by many is ‘Should anyone that might betray such a poor attitude towards others, be really allowed to be on a national state as representatives, supposedly being portrayed as being the best that a nation might have?‘ If so, what would that say about the team, sport or nation itself?

Such is the concern in this particular matter, that at time of writing, forty-five thousand people now have called on the IRFU to examine the matter in greater context (LINK). Expressions of ‘withdrawal of support’ for the IRFU and those that advertise with the sport in general, have been expressed regarding a question of ‘conduct unbecoming’. The IRFU is in a tough position. They have to remember the legal rights of the now found innocent while also remembering to take onboard the opinions of those that support rugby nationwide and internationally. What way do they want to be seen by action or inaction?

It is clear from how the case was carried out that again, the way such matters are dealt with, need to be re-examined. To many looking on, it felt like the young girl was on trial – not the accused. That she spent more time in the dock being interrogated far more than the accused, has furthered this opinion in the minds of many.

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The Right Move?

The men accused have been in law, been found “innocent“. That now is on record. Some of the defendants have decided to possible further launch their own legal cases against those that passed their own comments. The irony over defendants dismissing possible poor choice of WhatsApp words, versus what was said later by others in less vulgar nature, has not been lost on some.

Having being found innocent, some of the accused have subsequently decided to try stay out of further limelight while more sports matters are resolved. One however, has decided to continue legal matters by saying they are looking at suing a politician for his comments post-trial. After being caught up in such trails, those involved face a decision. They have to ask themselves should they try to not keep such matters in the public limelight or instead though later action, further add to any controversy which might still be floating around in press media and social media circles? What is the best course of action after a serious trial, when trying to restore one’s reputation and return to previous pre-trial activities, is a quandary many face!

Regarding a recent high profile rape case, some defendants have decided to remain quiet. Some have not. The latter has decided to sue others. This as a side effect, will possible keep the original matter prolonged in further national headlines (example: “#suemepaddy” Twitter trending) – not just for one nation but for two or even more. Is this the best move by such people? Certainly debatable. There are arguments for both sides of the debate.

One thing is clear however. The ability to sue someone in a court, is really in the domain of those that can afford to take such steps. The average citizen if they are defamed, slandered etc, due to financial constraints are unlikely to be even able to go after those attacking them – such is the mountain of just initial legal costs involved in even starting to defend their good name. One of those previously accused of rape, thankfully for himself, doesn’t visibly appear to have these concerns. They might be considered to be in a small minority of ability? They are entitled to hold to account those deemed in their opinion, to have done wrong against them. If only many others, of lesser ability, could do the same!

In the meanwhile, such is the legal continuance of matters surrounding the rape case, once again it can be seen that fear has been struck into others as to if they are allowed to express an opinion or even ask a question! Those found innocent have an equal right to chase any further legal routes they deem are necessary. However, a further quandary again arises about a public’s ability to even state reported facts – or must they keep silent out of fear they might also be sued?

For the moment and possibly for some time to come, those that are of greater wealth or opportunity, have greater ability to silence those that might comment even honest facts or express an opinion. Sadly, the same cannot be said for many other people that make up a general public.

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Legal Reform

It has become very clear for a long time that legal reforms are needed regarding a person right to express an opinion. It has become obvious that in order to understand how jury decisions come about, some explanations might need to be stated afterwards – even by legal professionals. The public, by understanding such things, might be better able to formulate opinions and express them better in honest justified, legal permitted terms. There is certainly legal reforms needed regarding how more members of the public can defend their good name (ability should not remain with a tiny elite). In short, the recent rape case highlights many things beyond the clear message that possible rape victims should most certainly be treated far better. Will any of these needed reforms take place?

Public pressure will help decide that final question. The question is still open, the jury is still out…

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