Ulster's Paddy Jackson pleads 'not guilty' to rape charge
Ulster and Irish rugby star Paddy Jackson has appeared in court where he denied raping and sexually assaulting a woman last summer.
Jackson appeared at Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday alongside two co-accused, who are also facing charges arising from the alleged sexual assault.
All three were informed a trial date has been set for January 22, 2018.
Jackson (25), from Oakleigh Park in Belfast, spoke to confirm his name. He also replied "not guilty" when the two charges were put to him - namely raping and sexually assaulting a woman on June 28, 2016.
During the hearing, Jackson's barrister Brendan Kelly QC asked if it was possible that the trial could start earlier than the proposed date of January 22. Mr Kelly said the reason for his request was that Jackson "has been unable contractually to work ... and the sooner the matter is tried, the sooner that particular matter can be resolved".
Also appearing alongside Jackson was 25-year-old Blane McIlroy, from Royal Lodge Road in Belfast, and Rory Harrison, who is also 25 and from Manse Road in the city.
McIlroy was charged with, and denied, exposing his genitals on June 28 last year, "intending that someone would see them and be caused alarm or distress".
Harrison faces two charges, namely perverting the course of justice on dates between June 27 and July 1, and withholding information on dates between June 27 and October 5, 2016.
Harrison denied making a witness statement to police in which he lied about his dealings with the female complainant and omitted information relevant to the investigation. He also denied a charge of knowing rape had been committed and failing to give that information to a constable.
After all three defendants entered "not guilty" pleas to all charges, senior prosecuting barrister Toby Hedworth QC revealed a number of witnesses who will be called to give evidence are students and will be undertaking exams in January.
He said: "Police are going to make requests of the universities in question ... most if not all of them should be able to get a bit of leeway to comply with any dates put to them".
When Judge Smyth revealed the proposed date for trial has been set at January 22, Jackson's barrister asked if it were possible to secure an earlier date. The Judge responded by saying this was not possible, as the date of January 22 has been proposed "for a number of reasons".
Judge Smyth said the case would "benefit from a review" which has been scheduled to take place on December 15. She excused all three defendants from attending court on that date, before releasing them from the dock.
A fourth co-accused Stuart Olding (24) - who is Jackson's rugby international team-mate and from Ardenlee Street in Belfast - is due to appear at the same court later this week.
Belfast Telegraph Digital