The jury in the trial of three men accused of raping a woman in a hotel car park has been told that getting in a car is not consent for sex.
Closing speeches began on the 10th day of the trial at the Central Criminal Court.
The first defendant (22) has pleaded not guilty to rape and sexual assault. A second defendant (23) has pleaded not guilty to rape, oral rape and two counts of sexual assault. The third defendant (23) has pleaded not guilty to rape and oral rape.
The offences are alleged to have occurred on December 20th, 2017, at a hotel car park in the Leinster area. The complainant was 17 at the time.
Alice Fawsitt SC, prosecuting, told the jury they had heard the complainant's evidence that she said no to the three defendants' requests for sex and they did not listen to her. Two defendants had also given evidence that the complainant had not shouted or screamed.
Ms Fawsitt asked the jury to consider if these defendants might understand consent to mean that a woman has to “shout or scream” and “draw attention to the fact you are not consenting”.
Ms Fawsitt suggested to the jury that it appears that the defendants thought “the moment [the complainant] got in the car, she was consenting to sex”. She said the complainant thought they were going for a drive.
“Getting into a car with four lads is not consent to sex with one, two or three of them,” prosecution counsel said.
“She didn’t get in the car to have sexual intercourse and didn’t consent,” Ms Fawsitt told the jury.
Ms Fawsitt acknowledged that the complainant was 17 at the time, got into a car “for a drive with four strangers” and was “out in a place she shouldn’t have been”, about which no parent would have been happy.
She said the risk of getting in trouble at home “pales in comparison” to the process the complainant has been through over the last number of years.
Ms Fawsitt asked the jury to consider if the defendants were reckless as to whether or not the complainant had given consent.
She noted that the complainant has not suggested the accused forced her to have sex or made any threats. Rather, the complainant said there was a row in the car about sex on the journey to the hotel car park and she became scared.
She said the complainant gave evidence that she heard her friend refuse the third defendant's request for sex during a phone call.
Ms Fawsitt told the jury that the complainant said she got into the car as she did not want to leave her friend alone.
Ms Fawsitt said it seems to her that the “only people saying that [the complainant's friend] was looking for sex is the defendants”.
Ms Fawsitt told the jury that the complainant's friend is “not here to say if she said yes or no”. She suggested it is irrelevant as the two women were in separate cars in the hotel car park. Neither woman would have known what was happening to the other at that moment.
She suggested to the jury that the defence's position is that all of the interaction between the complainant and the accused was consensual, but the prosecution says it was not.
She told the jury that these events took place within the space of 30 minutes and the forensic evidence is supportive of the account given by the complainant.
Ms Fawsitt suggested to the jury that they are entitled to infer that the first defendant was sitting in the driver seat and made the comment about “riding” to the security guard.
She noted while the defendant denies it was him: “If you look at the evidence, it logically can’t be anyone else.”
Ms Fawsitt suggested this comment showed the “attitude” of those involved in what was going on.
Prosecuting counsel told the jury that the fact the defendants are members of the Travelling community is irrelevant to the case they must consider.
Ms Fawsitt reminded the jury that the fourth man present at the hotel car park has no connection to the complainant or the relevant car.
Ms Fawsitt told the jury that these events took place several years ago and asked them to remember when giving evidence, the complainant was “doing her best to revisit a situation that she says was horrible”.
“She was 17-years-old when this happened and 22 now. I suggest to you that the 22-year-old is stronger than the 17-year-old who went in the car that night.”
In earlier evidence, the third defendant told the jury that he and another male had plans to meet the complainant's friend and another girl on the evening of December 20th, 2017. He said the other girl couldn't attend and the complainant's friend arranged for the complainant to come instead.
The defendant said he did not know the complainant when his car arrived at the train station. He said a conversation about sex took place in the car between him, the other male and the complainant's friend, but denied there was a row.
The accused said he went to the other car with the complainant's friend when they arrived at the hotel car park and they had “consensual sex”. He then got into the other car to get dressed.
While there, he said the complainant told him they were “gas lads” and offered him oral sex, which he accepted.
The defendant denied raping the complainant and said she suggested they have sex in the back of the car.
He said he parked the car near the hotel afterwards as the brakes were making noise and they dropped the girls home in the other car.
We were going for a drive and if sex came up, it came up
He told Mark Nicholas SC, his defence barrister, that he was sitting in the back of the car with the girls and saw no signs of distress.
When asked by Ms Fawsitt, the accused accepted it was possible there were phone calls back and forth between him and the complainant's friend on the evening in question. He said he told the complainant's friend they were stopped by gardaí because the girls were “ringing and ringing”.
He accepted the complainant was correct to say she understood they were going for a drive.
“We were going for a drive and if sex came up, it came up,” he told Ms Fawsitt.
The accused told prosecuting counsel the second car was collected to make everyone more comfortable during the drive. He denied the car was collected for the purpose of sex, and there was no need for a second initially.
The defendant said sex came up during the journey and the girls requested a second car to “be more comfortable”. He said they collected the second car as “the girls didn’t want to have sex in front of each other”
The accused said he saw no signs the complainant was scared and she did not say no.
“She was happy and laughing. There was no sign of forcing or rape. She never gave any signals to say 'I’m just after being raped'. If she showed a sign, I’d have asked if she was okay,” he said.
Ms Fawsitt put it to the accused that the complainant was 17 at the time and with a group of young men. He said he was also 17 and never forced anyone to have sex.
Prosecuting counsel asked the defendant if he was suggesting that the complainant had made up the allegation. “She has to be,” he replied.
“She showed no signs. Why wouldn’t she say no? She never once said anything,” he said. He agreed with prosecuting counsel that he'd “imagine she’d scream rape”.
“If I was a girl, I’d scream rape. I’d say stop,” he told the jury.
When Ms Fawsitt put it to him that they were in a dark car park, the defendant said it was at hotel and he imagined people would hear if she had been “roaring and screaming rape”.
He confirmed to Garnet Orange SC, representing the second defendant, that he met the complainant's friend a few days before at a hotel.
The trial continues on Wednesday before Ms Justice Melanie Greally and the jury.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800-77 8888, access text service and webchat options at drcc.ie/services/helpline/, or visit Rape Crisis Help.
In the case of an emergency, always dial 999/112.