Two Ireland rugby internationals were today cleared of raping the same woman at a party following a night out.
Paddy Jackson, 26, and Stuart Olding, 25, were accused of sexually assaulting the woman when they went back to Jackson’s home in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
But they were today cleared by a jury who deliberated for almost four hours at Belfast Crown Court.
The lawyer for Ulster flyhalf Jackson today said that his client’s main priority is to ‘return to work’ and will represent his country on the rugby pitch.
Paddy Jackson, 26, (left) and Stuart Olding, 25, (right) were accused of raping the woman at a party back at Jackson’s home
Paddy Jackson’s lawyer today said that his client’s main priority is to ‘return to work’ and ‘represent his country’
His client was was also found not guilty on a separate charge of sexual assault.
His friend Rory Harrison, 25, was also accused of perverting the course of justice and withholding information in regards to the alleged incident.
Blane McIlroy, 26, was accused of one count of exposure but the pair were also today cleared following the alleged incident in June 2016.
Neither Jackson or Olding, who have represented their country a combined 29 times, have played at club or national level since they were charged in July last year.
The court had previously heard how the rugby players had boasted with their friends about a ‘spit roasting’ on a WhatsApp group.
Messages in a group Olding and Jackson were part of included jokes about ‘pumping birds’ and a photograph was shared with the caption ‘Love Belfast s****.’
The court heard how one of the WhatsApp groups was named Jacome while another was called The Juicers.
In a message to The Juicers group, McIlroy posted a picture of himself and three girls who had been at the after party where the rape is alleged to have happened.
The photo was captioned: ‘Love Belfast s***s’.
In another message also read out, McIlroy boasted: ‘Pumped a bird with Jacko on Monday, roasted her, then another on Tuesday night.’
In one exchange on June 30 2016, Harrison expressed hope the case against his friends could be dismissed.
He said: ‘Hopefully it’s just thrown out. Just a silly girl who’s done something then regretted it.
‘Yeah, surely it will be. I know but she’s causing so much trouble for the lads.
Jackson (pictured on the left) did not speak outside his court but his lawyer said he will now return to play rugby
Blaine McIlroy (left) and Rory Harrison (right) were also cleared of charges which related to the same incident
‘Yeah mate, if that got out like. The other thing is the cops went straight to Les Kiss (the then Ulster Rugby coach) which is f****** ridiculous.’
McIlroy responded: ‘Yeah, surely the cops can’t disclose that to Les Kiss.’
Harrison said: ‘There could be a law suit in that if it just dismissed. Although you are drawing attention to it, I suppose.’
Meanwhile, in separate messages also read to the court the woman was asked by a friend whether she told her alleged attackers to stop.
She wrote: ‘Of course I did but they were too strong.’
The high-profile trial was originally scheduled for five weeks but lasted for nine weeks.
In total, 30 witnesses gave evidence including the four defendants and the complainant whose testimony was heard over eight separate days, and verdicts were returned on day 42.
The court heard from 10 police officers, two doctors, a forensic scientist and a taxi driver who had driven the complainant home on the night in question.
When the trial opened on January 30, a total of 12 jurors were sworn in – nine men and three women.
But about halfway through the panel was reduced to 11 after one juror was discharged because of illness.
There were emotional scenes outside the courtroom as family and friends of the accused hugged and kissed each other.