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Decision to prosecute Jackson driven by his sports star status

Statements from Paddy Jackson and solicitor Joe McVeigh

Paddy Jackson: "I'd just like to thank the judge and the jury for giving me a fair trial, my parents for being here every day as well as my brother and sisters.

I'd like to thank my barrister Brendan Kelly QC, my solicitors Joe McVeigh and Kevin Winters of RKW Law. Out of respect for my employers I'm have nothing further to comment."

Joe McVeigh: "We've this to say on behalf of our client Patrick Jackson. We are grateful to the jury for reaching what was a common sense verdict of not guilty on all counts.

"Paddy has been consistent in his denials and in his account.

"Consistency had never been a feature of the complainant's evidence long before she entered the witness box, so these acquittals should come as no surprise to anyone.

"Paddy leaves court for the last time today as he entered it almost 10 weeks ago - an innocent man.

"The prosecution made much of a perceived privileged position provided by virtue of Paddy being an international rugby player. We say that it was this very status as a famous sportsman that drove the decision to prosecute in the first place. Much has been said in the course of this trial by way of criticism of the police investigation. We've little to add to what's already been said. But it's our belief that the investigation has been characterised by the turning of a blind eye to inadequacies in the evidence of the complainant, combined with very apparent investigative bias.

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"Paddy and his parents have paid a heavy price, personally, professionally and financially. This price was paid despite the fact that he has never been anything other than entirely innocent.

"On the face of it, this robust assertion of its independence by the jury embodied in these acquittals, for all four men, may suggest that the trial process is in good health. That is not the case.

"Vile commentary expressed on social media, going well beyond fair comment, has polluted this sphere of public discourse and raised real concerns about the integrity of the trial process. To that end we want to thank the learned trial judge Patricia Smyth for her management of this trial in the face of an onslaught of toxic content, particularly on Twitter.

"Several days of this trial were lost due to problems thrown up by the intrusive infection of the process by social media.

"All the lawyers have been distracted by having to man the barriers against a flood of misinformed, misconceived and malicious content on the internet, particularly during the last phase of this trial, and, worryingly even at the hands of public servants who should have known better.

"There's no reason to believe that this problem will not worsen.

"To that end we invite the office of the Lord Chief Justice, the Attorney General and Public Prosecution Service to enter into fresh discussions with us to look at more robust mechanisms that can strike an effective balance between everyone's rights but that properly secure the integrity of our criminal justice system.

"As for Paddy, his main priority now is to return to work. That means getting back on the rugby pitch and representing his province and his country. Thank you."

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