Oxford student accused of saying 'this is awkward' after alleged rape cleared

A former Oxford medical student who was booted out of university after being accused of rape was found not guilty today.

Niall McPaul, now 27, was overcome with emotion as the jury delivered their verdict at Oxford Crown Court.

He was accused of raping the fellow Oxford student when she fell asleep after drinking a bottle and a half of wine at a college party in April 2017.

The alleged victim claimed she had told McPaul to stop when she realised he was raping her and he had then said: ‘Oh no, this is really awkward.’

But the jury of  women and seven men returned a not guilty verdict after seven hours and 27 minutes deliberation.

During the trial, the defendant pointed out that he worked for the Sexpression charity, where he taught children as young as 12 about relationships.

He said: ‘I have taught about consent. I care about consent. I have lots of friends who work in that sort of area. This whole thing has sort of bothered me a lot.’

The trial

McPaul, who was 24 at the time of the incident, had met the victim through friends at a party in 2016 when they shared a kiss,  five months before the alleged rape.

A court heard how on the morning of the alleged attack – April 22 – the complainant had allowed Mr McPaul to stay over from the previous evening and they had cuddled in bed.

McPaul admitted having sex with the woman but said it was consensual.

The alleged victim described herself as ‘eight or nine’ out of 10 in terms of drunkenness and told police that McPaul had sat on the side of her bed following the incident and said: ‘This is one of those unfortunate things that happens.’

Defence lawyer Eleanor Laws, representing McPaul, suggested the victim had engaged in consensual kissing and sexual touching while they were in bed together, before she had gone to sleep and after she had woken up.

As the trial continued Ms Laws asked the alleged victim if she ‘craved attention’.

She said: ‘Are you somebody who has, in the past, craved attention? Do you recall telling a counsellor in the past that you wanted to have an accident, but not a big one, one just big enough to be hospitalised and looked after by others?’

The woman confirmed she had told a counsellor that.

The defence lawyer took the court through the events of a few days after the alleged rape in 2017,  when the accuser had gone with the Dean of the university, who she had described as ‘bae’ in texts to friends afterwards, to a police station to make a complaint about Mr McPaul.

The jury was told that the alleged rape victim had also posted on a Facebook group, naming Mr McPaul as her rapist to almost 3,000 members, most of whom were anonymous strangers she did not know.

In a post which began with the letters TW – meaning ‘Trigger Warning’ – the alleged victim had claimed that a man, who she initially named as a friend of a friend, had raped her and added: ‘I find it terrifying that he is going to be a doctor. He thinks it is okay to have sex with someone who is drunk/asleep, without a condom as well!’

The post also said: ‘I have spoken to two of my housemates and he is officially disinvited from future parties. He did not seem to think it was that bad at all. I am honestly not that upset but feel like I should be.’

Ms Laws alleged the victim had contacted one of her friends and told her not to mention to police that her tights had been left in the kitchen, where she had been consensually kissing Mr McPaul, when she spoke to police ‘because it might sound a bit frivolous.’

It was also put to the woman she had sent a number of people a photograph depicting mugs with a number of medical students’ faces on it, one of them being Mr McPaul.

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The victim said she did not think it was funny and then interrupted the defence counsel to address Judge Maria Lamb directly.

She said: ‘I am sorry I have just really had enough. Honestly I feel like you can say whatever you want want but I just do not want to be here anymore.’

After the verdict was announced, Judge Lamb said ‘these cases are never easy’ and thanked the court for their time.

McPaul, from Oxford, was acquitted of one count of rape and left the court without making any comment.

Asked for his reaction to being cleared, he said it was too early to speak.


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