Belfast Telegraph

Rugby rape trial: Taxpayers 'could face £1m bill' for marathon trial

By Brett Campbell

The cost of the rape trial that ended yesterday could exceed £1m and the taxpayer could be left to foot the bill.

Belfast-based media lawyer Paul McDonnell said it is impossible to put an exact figure on the cost of the trial which ran for nine weeks.

However, he estimated that it will cost the public purse hundreds of thousands of pounds.  

"It's very hard to be precise, but given the unusually long duration of the trial it is likely that the taxpayer will be left to pick up a very hefty bill," he said.

"There were four defendants and one complainant so that's five senior counsels and five junior counsels involved - but there could be other legal fees involved.

"The bill would have already started being accrued before the case was brought to court and it would have mounted up quite quickly as the trial ran on.

"It's not outlandish to estimate that the total cost of the trial will exceed £1m," he added.

The 19-year-old complainant in the case accused Ulster and Ireland rugby stars Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding of raping her in Jackson's house at a party in June 2016.

On July 25 last year, following a police investigation, the Public Prosecution Service decided there was "sufficient evidence to prosecute four individuals" in connection with the alleged assault.

But yesterday a jury of 11 men and women found all four defendants - including Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison - not guilty on all counts.

Mr McDonnell acknowledged it is impossible to be precise about the public cost of the trial without knowing the specific amount of legal aid which was awarded. Mr Olding was granted legal aid on February 19, just three weeks after proceedings had begun.

"I can't say how much of the legal bill will end up being paid for by the state, but it will definitely be hundreds of thousands," said Mr McDonnell.

Belfast Telegraph

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