Belfast Telegraph

Ulster should have drawn a line under Jackson and Olding rape case, says Ferris

Tough atmosphere: Stephen Ferris
Tough atmosphere: Stephen Ferris

By Ciaran O Raghallaigh

Former rugby star Stephen Ferris has said Ulster and the IRFU should have "drawn a line" when Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were cleared of rape last year.

The ex-Ulster duo were unanimously acquitted of all charges after a high-profile trial in Belfast.

The following month, they were 'relieved of their duties' by the IRFU and Ulster.

Both have since moved to France, where they are effectively out of contention for an Ireland call-up.

Ferris, a former Ulster and Ireland star, says out half Jackson has missed out on a lot. Ferris said the court case made for a difficult atmosphere around the Kingspan Stadium last year, and he found it difficult to voice any opinion on the issue, staying quiet when the likes of Ulster and Ireland captain Rory Best made an appearance at court.

"I had to bite my lip, for sure," Ferris said.

"Rory Best went to court to support the two lads, but I wasn't going to put myself in any kind of position that the media would get on my back.

"I gave the media no views to jump on, that's the whole process. Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, they were good friends when we played rugby, but they're on to new pastures now, and they're starting a new life and career, and I wish them the very best with that.

"Two good guys in my eyes, and they were proven innocent in what happened. I thought there should have been a line drawn under it, but unfortunately for those guys, the IRFU and Ulster decided it wasn't a fit.

"They had to leave. I think everyone has their own views and opinions on it. For me personally, I think it's a terrible situation that's happened, the consequences of that is they had to move on and start a new career.

"Look at Paddy Jackson - he could be a Grand Slam winner now, another World Cup, beating the All Blacks, that could have been him instead of Joey Carbery. It's terrible the way these things pan out, but it's over now and everybody moves on."

Last March a jury took less than four hours to unanimously clear Mr Jackson and Mr Olding of rape after a trial that spanned nine weeks.

They had been accused of sexually assaulting a woman at Mr Jackson's home after a night out in Belfast in June 2016.

Two other men - Blane McIlroy, who was accused of exposure, and Rory Harrison, who was charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information - were also found not guilty by a unanimous decision.

The next month, the IRFU and Ulster Rugby said Jackson and Olding's contracts had been revoked with "immediate effect".

It followed controversy over social media and text messages they had exchanged.

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