Belfast rape trial: All four defendants acquitted on all charges

The IRFU says both Jackson and Olding will remain suspended until a review of the matter is complete

All four defendants in the Belfast rape trial have been found not guilty on all charges.

Ireland and Ulster rugby internationals Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were acquitted of raping the same woman at a party in Jackson’s south Belfast home in June 2016.

26-year-old Paddy Jackson had denied vaginally raping the 19-year-old woman. He was also acquitted of one count of sexual assault.

25-year-old Stuart Olding was acquitted of one count of oral rape. 

Their friend Blane McIlory was acquitted of one count of exposure.

Another friend Rory Harrison was acquitted of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Jackson, McIlroy and Harrison were permitted to leave the dock first. They gave little reaction in court but hugged family members once outside.

The court was told a short time later that no evidence had been offered by prosecutors on a charge of vaginal rape against Stuart Olding.

Judge Patricia Smyth then directed the jury to find him not guilty. 

Reaction

On his way out of court following the verdict, Mr Jackson made a brief statement:

"I would just like to thank the judge and the jury for giving me a fair trial," he said.

"My parents for being here every day as well as my brothers and sisters."

He also thanked his legal team adding, "out of respect for my employers, I have nothing further to comment." 

Stuart Olding says he’s “very relieved” the jury accepted his version of what happened in the early hours of June 28th 2016.

He prepared a short statement before leaving court this afternoon and it was read out by his solicitor Paul Dougan.

The statement said: "I want to acknowledge publicly that though I committed no criminal offence on the evening of the 28th June 2016, I regret deeply the events of that evening. I want to acknowledge that the complainant came to court and gave evidence about her perception of those events. I am sorry for the hurt that was caused to the complainant.

"It was never my intention to cause any upset to anyone on that night. I don't agree with her perception of events, and I maintain that everything that happened that evening was consensual."

In a statement following the verdict, the IRFU and Ulster Rugby said both Jackson and Olding will remain suspended until a review of the matter is completed.

A review committee is to be set up to examine the matter, "in line with existing procedures for all contracted players."

The committee will be made up of senior representatives from both organisations and will "conclude its review as soon as practicable."

" We wish to acknowledge that this has undoubtedly been a difficult and extremely traumatic time for all involved," it said.

Back to work

Mr Jackson's solicitor Joe McVeigh said he was grateful to the jury for reaching "what was a common sense verdict."

He said his client has been "consistent in his denials and consistent in his account" of what happened.

"As for Paddy, his main priority now is to return to work," he said.

"That means getting back on the rugby pitch and representing his province and his country."

Deliberations

The eight men and three women of the jury were sent out to begin their deliberations just before lunchtime yesterday and spent roughly two hours doing so before they were sent home.

They eventually delivered their verdict after a total of three hours and 45 minutes consideration.

The trial lasted for nine weeks. 

Including the four defendants, a total of 30 witnesses gave evidence during the nine-week trial.

The complainant gave testimony over eight separate days.

The jurors will now be exempt from jury service for life, the judge telling them it had "probably been the most difficult trial that any jury in Northern Ireland has ever been asked to adjudicate on."

If you have been affected by anything mentioned in this article you can contact the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre National 24-Hour helpline on 1800-77-88-88

Additional reporting Michael Staines, Stephanie Grogan and IRN