A MAN has pleaded guilty to publishing the name of a woman who was at the centre of the Ulster rugby rape trial allegations this year.
Sean McFarland, 36, of Rinnalea Gardens in west Belfast, was charged with publishing her name on a date between February 7-9 this year, in contravention of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992.
He pleaded guilty today to the charge at Belfast Magistrates’ Court and was fined £300 fine.
The defendant was also ordered to pay an offender levy of £15.
Under the Act, alleged victims of sex offences are guaranteed a life time of anonymity from being identified.
She gave evidence at the trial of Ulster and Ireland rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding accusing them of rape.
But a jury unanimously found them not guilty of the rape charge.
Despite the not-guilty verdicts, both players had their contracts terminated by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and now ply their trade in France.
Following McFarland’s conviction today, Detective Chief Inspector Zoe McKee from Public Protection Branch said:
“We welcome the conviction of Sean McFarland today after he pleaded guilty to one charge of breaching the lifetime ban on reporting the identity of a complainant in a rape trial which took place in Belfast earlier this year.
“This is the first time that anyone in Northern Ireland had been prosecuted for breaching this right to anonymity.
“It should act as a deterrent to anyone who names a complainant in any serious sexual offence, who are entitled to lifelong anonymity.
“The Police Service of Northern Ireland is fully committed to investigating offences of this nature.
“We understand how difficult it can be for anyone to report a rape.
“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.”