'I went to bed and had no idea she was upset' - Paddy Jackson takes the stand at rugby rape trial
Ireland rugby player Paddy Jackson has taken the stand on the opening day of the defence case at his rape trial in Belfast.
The 26-year-old, who denies raping a woman at a house party in south Belfast in 2016, told the court he was not a violent person and had never thrown a punch.
Jackson, who also denies a charge of sexual assault, was being questioned by his defence counsel Brendan Kelly QC at Belfast Crown Court.
He said: "I have never been in a fight before. I am not an aggressive person."
The barrister added: "Have you ever as much as thrown a punch Mr Jackson?"
To which the defendant replied: "No."
The court also heard about Jackson's close friendships with some well-known rugby players including Irish captain Rory Best.
Inquiring about social interactions involving Mr Best, the lawyer asked: "You were tasked with babysitting his children?
Jackson replied: "Yeah, I would and I got invited to his son's sixth birthday."
Jackson also described co-accused Stuart Olding as a "very close friend", having met at the Ulster Rugby Academy.
He has been friends with Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison, who are also facing charges connected to the incident, since school.
Paddy Jackson, 26, from Oakleigh Park, in Belfast, and Stuart Olding, 24, from Ardenlee Street, in the city, deny raping the same woman. Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.
Blane McIlroy, 26, from Royal Lodge Road, Belfast, denies exposure while Rory Harrison, 25, from Manse Road, Belfast, denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.
Jackson said he was excited but also felt pressure to represent Ireland in South Africa in April 2016.
"I was very excited but also felt a lot of pressure. This was a big opportunity for me so there was a lot of nerves.
"I felt a lot of pressure going into it. This was my chance. Rugby is my passion. I saw it as my chance to put my name on the big stage."
He told the court on the team's last day in South Africa they relaxed by the pool and had a few drinks.
"We had the whole day sitting by the pool having a few drinks before we flew home. I would have been a bit drunk but it was more sitting in the sun and relaxing."
They flew home to Dublin that night.
Jackson said that, when he arrived back in Belfast, he dropped his bags at home and then went to Cutters Wharf bar to watch the football and have a few drinks.
"It was very casual. Really just watching the football and chatting. We then went to Ollies (nightclub)".
He told the court that from time to time he would be approached by people he did not know.
"It happened quite a lot. I just took the time if they want to talk to me, be polite. If they want a picture or have a chat I try to do that," he said.
Jackson told the court that after the nightclub he went home with his friends and three girls, who he did not know.
"The guys would always go back to my house after a night out. I didn't know the girls in the cab."
He said in his house music was playing.
"It was very relaxed," he said.
Jackson told the court he remembered smiling at the alleged victim.
"She was looking at me. I didn't think it was strange at the time.
"We were flirting with each other. If I went to the kitchen she followed me. It seemed normal. It was very much flirting between both of us."
He said he got the impression that she liked him.
"It was nice. I liked her back. I went upstairs. I remember part of me thinking she might follow me upstairs. She did".
Jackson said the pair kissed "passionately" on the edge of the bed until the alleged victim pulled away and asked if he knew her name.
"I didn't know her name. It was a bit embarrassing at the time. I got up and went downstairs. I wanted to be back in the party."
Jackson said back upstairs he and the female began to kiss.
"It was quite passionate. We were both kissing each other. It got a bit more passionate. When I was lying on the bed (she) was on top of me. She started to bite my lower lip. It was playful but pretty hard."
Jackson claimed the woman then performed oral sex on him. Olding then walked in he said.
"It was a bit embarrassing. I kind of smiled at him and waved at him. It was a bit stupid, kind of 'hi, look what's happening," he said.
Jackson said that Olding then came over.
"There was an interaction between them. Her attention went from me to Stuart. She performed oral sex on Stuart," he said.
Jackson said that as the woman performed a sexual act on Olding he pulled her trousers down to her thighs.
"I then started to touch her with my hands," he said.
He told the court that there was no penile intercourse because he could not find a condom.
"She asked for a condom. I looked in the bedside wardrobe and couldn't find one ... I continued to touch her with my hands," he said.
After Olding left the room Jackson said he and the woman lay in bed together.
"We lay in bed together. I presumed she would be staying the night. I was drunk, tired and I was so happy to be in my own bed. I think I may have fallen asleep," he said.
Jackson said he then saw the female getting dressed.
"It was getting light. She was at the bottom of the bed. I saw her getting dressed. I got up and pulled on some sweats. We said something to each other. I can't remember what.
"I assume I said 'Are you leaving?'"
When asked if he had known the alleged victim was upset leaving his house he said: "If I had seen she was upset I would have gone and checked on her. I didn't see her upset.
"The last thing I want is a girl crying leaving my house. I would have freaked out. The last thing I ever want is anyone leaving my house upset.
"I went to bed and had no idea she was upset."