Belfast Telegraph

Rugby rape trial verdicts: Paddy Jackson's 'privilege' drove rape prosecution, defence lawyer claims

By Mark Edwards

Paddy Jackson’s perceived ‘privilege’ as an international rugby player drove the decision to prosecute him for rape, his solicitor has claimed.

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

Blane McIlroy was cleared of exposure and Rory Harrison was cleared of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Speaking outside court, Paddy Jackson said: “I would 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.”

He thanked his legal team and said out of respect for his employer he would not be making any further comment.

Paddy Jackson speaking outside court

His solicitor, Joe McVeigh, thanked the jury for their “common sense verdicts” on all counts and said his client had been consistent in his denials.

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

“The prosecution made much of a perceived privileged position provided by virtue of Paddy being an international rugby player.

“We say that it is 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 have little to add to what has already been said.

“But it is 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.

“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 an entirely innocent man.”

Mr McVeigh hit out at “vile commentary” on social media about the case, which he said “polluted” the sphere of public discourse, putting the integrity of the trial at risk.

He said: “His [Paddy Jackson’s] main priority is to return to work, getting back on the rugby pitch representing his province and his country.”

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