Rugby star Paddy Jackson has no current offers of employment and continues to pay an enormous personal price despite being resoundingly acquitted of rape, his lawyer claimed as he called on prosecutors to pay his legal costs.
Brendan Kelly QC told a judge in Belfast Crown Court that Jackson, 26, had done nothing to bring the situation upon himself, revealing that his client’s salary had been halved when he was charged last year.
Jackson and former Ulster and Ireland team mate Stuart Olding, 25, were found not guilty in March of raping the same woman at a house party in 2016.
Both men, who were subsequently sacked by Ulster and Ireland for involvement in explicit WhatsApp chats that were revealed during the marathon trial, are bidding to recover their legal costs from Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service.
Jackson had privately funded his case and his legal bill is estimated to be well in excess of £100,000.
Despite being linked with other clubs, both players are still without a team for next season. Neither were in court for Friday’s court hearing.
“He’s without employment, he’s without offer of employment,” Mr Kelly said of Jackson.
“It’s not for me to criticise those who have seen to that, but this is the position we are in.
“He’s paid an enormous price for the events of that evening, despite what we would say was a resounding acquittal in this case.
“He did everything he was supposed to do during the Crown Court proceedings and we would argue he did nothing at all to bring this on.”
As well as the cut in wages, Mr Kelly said Jackson had found it difficult to extract equity from his house during the case because the “banks weren’t really on his side”.
He also told judge Patricia Smyth his father Peter had spent his retirement pot funding his son’s defences costs.
Mr Kelly said it was “inexcusable and inexplicable” that prosecutors had taken 13 months to charge Jackson, also criticising the PPS’s handling of certain aspects of the case.
But the barrister stressed the application was not a bid to “punish” prosecutors. He said the only reason Jackson was seeking costs from the PPS was because, unlike other jurisdictions, there was no centralised legal funding pot that paid both state and defence costs in Northern Ireland.
He said the trial had lasted almost twice as long as first envisaged through no fault of his client, claiming that, if he had been tried on his own, proceedings would have lasted as little as a week and a half.
The barrister said one of the reasons the trial took so long was due to problems caused by trying to manage the “persistent pollution of Twitter and other forms of social media” as the public commented on a trial that he said garnered “unparalleled levels of publicity”.
He’s not been deprived of a livelihood because of the prosecution, he’s been deprived of a livelihood because the public became aware of certain things he was saying and doing in the conduct of his private lifeToby Hedworth QC
Prosecution counsel Toby Hedworth QC said successful applications to recover private legal costs in Crown Court cases in Northern Ireland were “vanishingly rare”.
He argued that a dangerous precedent would be set for public policy in the region if prosecutors had to consider the financial implications of pursing rape cases.
He said it would lead to a “threat hanging over the Crown” when it was assessing whether to take charges against suspects with a “high profile or substantial means”.
“There’s a substantial danger that confidence in the Public Prosecution Service would be diminished in terms of its decision-making processes,” he said.
Mr Hedworth said it was not the PPS’s fault Jackson did not have a job.
“He’s not been deprived of a livelihood because of the prosecution, he’s been deprived of a livelihood because the public became aware of certain things he was saying and doing in the conduct of his private life,” he said.
The barrister noted that when his own funds ran dry during the case he could have applied for legal aid, rather than relying on other sources.
“Rather than mortgaging the home or turning to others for assistance he should and could have sought a representation order, but his choice was not to do so,” he said.
Olding was granted legal aid about half way through the nine-week trial. Until that point, he had been funding the case personally and with financial assistance from family and friends.
The court heard that his lawyers are making a similar application to recover costs.
Only Jackson’s case was aired on Friday.
Olding’s lawyers are to consult on whether they want to make oral arguments or rely on written submissions, with his junior counsel telling the judge there was “very little to distinguish between the two applications”.
Judge Smyth reserved judgment and cautioned the legal teams not to expect a ruling in the near future, due to the workload otherwise facing the courts.
Two other men, Blane McIlroy, 26, and Rory Harrison, 25, were also unanimously acquitted of lesser charges connected to the alleged incident at Jackson’s house in June 2016.