Ulster and Ireland rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding found not guilty in rape trial

Four men involved in a rape trial in Belfast found not guilty on all charges

Jack de Menezes
Thursday 29 March 2018 08:17
Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding found not guilty of rape

Ulster and Ireland rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding have been found not guilty of raping a female student at a house party two years ago, with Jackson also being found not guilty of sexual assault.

Two other defendants in the same case have also been found not guilty on all charges.

Blane McIlroy has been found not guilty of exposure, and Rory Harrison has been found not guilty of withholding information and perverting the course of justice.

Jackson was found not guilty of rape and sexual assault

The jury, made up of eight men and three women, deliberated the verdict for three hours and 45 minutes before returning unanimous not guilty verdicts to all charges.

Jackson, 26, from Belfast and Ulster teammate Olding, 25, also from Belfast, denied raping the same woman – then 19 years of age – following a night out in June 2016. Jackson, a 25-time capped Ireland international, also denied a further charge of sexual assault.

McIlroy, 26, from Belfast, denied exposure while Harrison, 25, from the same city, denied perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

The families of all four men were in the public gallery to hear the jury foreman read out the not guilty verdicts to each charge individually.

Ulster and Ireland rugby player Stuart Olding was found not guilty of rape

The nine-week case that began in January saw the defence argue that the woman made a false allegation of rape because she regretted consenting to group sex and feared that she may have been filmed with the images then potentially ending up being posted on social media.

The prosecution case was that Jackson allegedly pushed the woman down on his bed and vaginally raped and digitally penetrated her, before Olding allegedly walked into the room where the woman was forced to perform a sex act on him. It was alleged that McIlroy then entered the room, naked and holding his penis, with the woman then running out of the room.

The prosecution also alleged that Harrison “tried to cover up or manage” the woman, and took her home in a taxi.

A lawyer for the Public Prosecution Service told the trial that Jackson had "not sought her consent and indeed used force to achieve his aim", and that Olding entered the bedroom while the complainant was being raped and joined in.

Blane Harrison was found not guilty of exposure

In the hours after the alleged incident, the woman attended a sexual health clinic and a sexual assault referral centre before making her first statement to the police the following day.

Under cross-examination, Jackson repeatedly denied he had forced the girl to perform sex acts against her will.

He said the complainant was one of a number of women that returned to his house after meeting the rugby players and their friends in a Belfast nightclub the day after they returned home from Ireland's tour of South Africa.

Jackson said the woman had followed him to his bedroom on two separate occasions for consensual sexual activity.

Rory Harrison was found not guilty of withholding information and perverting the course of justice

Olding said he was "in complete control" of his actions following a day of heavy drinking with Jackson and others, and that he was "100 per cent sure" what had happened had been consensual.

Neither Jackson nor Olding have played for club or country since they were charged last July. Jackson made his Ireland debut in 2013 and was the second-choice fly-half at the time of being charged, while Olding made his international debut in the same year and has four caps to his name, with the most recent coming on the tour of South Africa alongside Jackson.

Additional reporting by Reuters