Belfast Telegraph

Rugby rape trial verdicts: Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding, Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison all found not guilty

Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding, Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison all cleared

By Ashleigh McDonald

Ireland and Ulster rugby duo Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding have been found not guilty of raping a 19-year-old student in June 2016.

It had taken the Belfast Crown Court jury of eight men and three women three hours and 40 minutes following the marathon nine-week trial, to unanimously acquit the pair of any wrongdoing.

Both 26-year-old Jackson from Oakleigh Park in Belfast, and 24-year old Olding, from Ardenlee Street, are now free to resume their sporting careers which lawyers said were "blighted" by the false rape claims.

The pair had always denied raping the now 21-year-old woman, who can't be named for legal reasons, during a party in Jackson's home on June 28, 2016.

They maintained from the outset that any sexual contact they had with her in Jackson's bedroom was purely consensual.

Acquitted and freed along with them were two friends, Blane McIlroy (26), from Royal Lodge Road, cleared of exposure, and Rory Harrison (25) from Manse Road, also Belfast, who'd denied charges of perverting the course of public justice, and withholding information.

The high-profile trial was originally scheduled for five weeks but lasted for nine weeks at Belfast Crown Court.

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.

Three defendants Jackson, McIlroy and Harrison were permitted to leave the dock first.

Judge Smyth said: "The jury has found you not guilty. You are free to leave the dock."

A short time later the court was told that no evidence had been offered by prosecutors on a charge of vaginal rape against Stuart Olding.

Judge Smyth directed the jury to find him not guilty.

Allowing Olding to go free, the judge said: "Mr Olding the jury has found you not guilty of this count also and you are now free to leave the dock."

Thanking the jurors, Ms Smyth said they would be exempt from jury service for life.

"This has probably been the most difficult trial that any jury in Northern Ireland has ever been asked to adjudicate on."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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