Belfast Telegraph

Olding, Jackson sackings: Anonymity orders 'rule against such moves in Republic of Ireland'

By Allan Preston

Rugby players in the Republic may have escaped sanction by the IRFU had a similar trial had been held there - despite being members of the same union, legal experts have suggested.

Anonymity laws differ south of the border, meaning the names of defendants cannot be published unless a guilty verdict is returned.

 

Explicit text messages sent by Ulster players Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding and Craig Gilroy - which came under the media spotlight during the recent trial of Jackson and Olding - may never have become public knowledge.

Ulster Rugby chief Shane Logan was asked on Monday if there was any consideration given to the fact that if the trial had occurred over the border, including in the Ulster counties of Donegal, Monaghan or Cavan, they would not have been public knowledge.

"I can't comment on that as I'm not familiar with the law in other jurisdictions," he said.

Ulster Rugby was asked again yesterday if Mr Logan had considered the matter further, but had yet to respond.

Solicitor Paul McDonnell said terminating the players' contracts in such circumstances may well have been "problematic" for the IRFU. "Had this trial taken place in the Republic, the defendants would have been entitled to anonymity in a case involving an allegation of rape," he explained.

"Although the content of the social media exchanges between the defendants may well have been a feature of any trial in the Republic, the participants in that social media exchange could not be identified if it led to identification of any of the defendants.

"Defendants in such cases are only identified if convicted, and even then provided their identification does not lead to identification of the complainant."

He said it was highly unlikely the content of the texts would ever have entered the public domain and come to the attention of rugby bodies, unless by other means.

"Therefore, to the extent that the decision of the IRFU and URFU was influenced by the fact that the content of the relevant social media exchanges were in the public domain and accordingly extensively publicly commented upon, that may not have been a factor in the decision making process of the rugby bodies had the trial taken place in the Republic," he said.

"If it were to be used as a factor, termination of player contracts may well have been problematic in those circumstances."

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