In all the acres of newspaper coverage of the Belfast rugby rape trial, after all four men were found not guilty, one headline read “There are no winners in this case.” Another went a little further, however subtle, by suggesting in bold type: “Everyone is a loser.”

They meant, of course, directly the five people at the centre of the trial, the four defendants, all in their mid-20s, and the 19-year-old woman known rather coldly as the complainant. And indeed, their lives will never be the same again.

But the very graphic content of the evidence in a trial which lasted almost nine weeks made very uncomfortable reading, and has held up a mirror to some very unsavoury aspects of society. So perhaps we should all take a cold, hard look at ourselves and be affected by the words and attitudes that came out of Court 12 in Belfast.

There are three main areas which I am thinking of in particular.

First, and foremost, is society’s attitude to women; while it is vital to emphasise and respect that the court found the four men not guilty of all offences, their behaviour was hardly clean and wholesome, and the ordeal that the court process put this young woman through hardly does the system credit either.

Secondly, the vile nature of the social media commentary on both sides of the argument doesn’t reflect well on a nastiness that apparently runs deep in our society.

And thirdly, the adversarial nature of a trial is tried and tested, but there are times when one wonders if it is the right way to get justice. I cannot see a better way, but still. And, of course, the high profile nature of the case has raised questions about identifying the defendants and the publicity surrounding the trial.

Don’t get me wrong, like many others I watched many of the reports of the evidence and arguments throughout the weeks, but even so I was astounded to hear that the small public gallery often included voyeuristic spectators; day trips by train from Dublin, for example, brought people to Belfast for the day who just wanted to watch proceedings for the “entertainment.”

Among the things they saw was a young woman, whose identity should not have been legally made public, regularly named naturally in the course of the trial. And as a result, her name was posted on social media. This, it should be said, is against the law and it will be interesting to see if those who posted it are pursued. If a journalist had published her name in their reporting, that journo would already be in hot water legally. In the nature of our court system, the woman whose blood-stained pants were passed around the jurors as evidence and who was questioned for eight days by a series of lawyers representing the men was simply a witness.

In the Republic, the woman can apply for separate representation which may give her some protection. Indeed, in the Republic the four men would not have been named publicly until the case was finished, and only then if they had been found guilty.

But as a result of the system in Northern Ireland, it meant that the naming of the four raised the profile of the whole case and the allowing of the public in to watch meant that, by default, the young woman was named.

So, from the start all the public so-called experts took up a position on one side, from men who viciously attacked the character of a young woman to a campaign of I believe her. Social media can be a wonderful means of communication; but it can also be a cesspit of filth in some cases. And in some of the commentary over this case betrays a lack of reason which expresses itself in a shockingly disgusting way.

No more so, it should be said, than the way some of the rugby players (including, it’s now revealed, another player not involved in the case) wrote about women. Terms such as sluts, brasses, spit roasting, top shaggers have emerged from the communication of the men on their WhatsApp group. They can never have expected that their “lads” exchanges would have been made public in such a way, but now that they have it is surely legitimate to call them out for a disgusting culture which views women in such a way.

Such behaviour in the bedroom on the night in question, and the social media exchanges around it, manifest an attitude towards women that is abhorrent.

A defence lawyer warned the jury that it was a “court of law, not morality”. And he was right. But while Belfast Crown Court found the men not guilty, the court of public opinion is judging the morality of the men rather differently over some of the behaviour they did admit to.

It was interesting to hear the comments of Joe McVeigh, the solicitor of Paddy Jackson, speak outside the court just after his client was cleared. He lashed into the police investigation, the decision of the Public Prosecution Service and the social media commentary.

He is entitled to raise criticism of all those. But I felt the timing and tone of his words were unfortunate, and he didn’t take questions. I would like someone to have asked him about his assertion that the players were prosecuted because of their rugby status. And how does he square that with accusations that the woman was attracted to them by that very celebrity? Is it all right for the defence to use their status?

And if he was so critical of social media, what did he feel about the stomach-churning nature of the players’ social media comments?

Meanwhile, Stuart Olding took time to reflect before coming out of court to issue a handwritten statement. While he did not accept her version of events, he said he was “sorry for the hurt” he caused her.

As I say, Mr McVeigh is entitled to express his criticism. But someone in his position is very-well positioned to contribute to a debate society must have. The naming of victims or not? How to have proper coverage of cases without appearing to have justice hidden? How to protect alleged victims while allowing the accused a proper and robust defence? Is it right, for example, that references to “middle class girls downstairs wouldn’t tolerate rape” or that a person isn’t the “type” to rape.

This trial has raised many questions and a measured debate is needed. There are also wider questions for all of us in our hard-hearted attitudes and our salacious attitudes to some of the behaviour that is all too common.