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Tuesday 25 June 2019

Jackson 'declined' to give details of financial situation in failed costs bid

Denied costs: Paddy Jackson is now playing his club rugby in France. Picture: Sportsfile
Denied costs: Paddy Jackson is now playing his club rugby in France. Picture: Sportsfile

Ashleigh McDonald

Former Irish rugby international Paddy Jackson "declined" to provide details of his current financial situation to a court in his bid to get his legal costs reimbursed.

An application made on behalf of rugby players Paddy Jackson (26) and Stuart Olding (25) to recover legal costs incurred during their lengthy rape trial was dismissed in court yesterday afternoon.

Judge Patricia Smyth - who presided over the nine-and-half-week trial at Belfast Crown Court earlier this year - was asked to consider defence applications on behalf of both men requesting that their legal costs be reimbursed by the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Services (PPS).

Both Mr Jackson and Mr Olding were unanimously acquitted by a jury in March of raping a then 19-year-old student in Mr Jackson's south Belfast home in June 2016.

It emerged during the ruling that as part of the application made on behalf of Mr Jackson, the court was provided with information from both Paddy Jackson and his father Peter setting out what they paid in legal costs.

The court heard Mr Jackson paid his mortgage off and had savings, but had to draw on his mortgage and borrow from his father's retirement money to fund his defence.

In her ruling, Judge Smyth said that Mr Jackson's father "was not required to contribute his retirement monies".

The judge also revealed yesterday that: "Mr Jackson has declined the opportunity to provide evidence regarding his current financial situation, including the extent to which he has repaid the debt to his father."

Neither man was in court for the ruling, but present in the public gallery were Mr Jackson's parents.

Mr Jackson's costs were considerably higher than Mr Olding's, as the latter successfully applied for legal aid midway through the trial.

Last April, in the aftermath of the trial, the IRFU terminated the pair's contracts with both the Irish team and Ulster Rugby.

Both men subsequently secured deals with teams in France.

Barristers for the pair each launched applications to recoup their client's legal fees from the PPS's purse.

Among other submissions made, their barristers argued that both men had suffered huge financial loss and damage to their reputations as a result of the trial, and both had to move away to pursue their careers.

During the ruling at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Smyth pointed out there were no guideline cases in either the UK or Ireland to compare this application to.

The trial judge also said she had taken into account the "special facts and circumstances" of the case.

Judge Smyth said: "This was a complex police investigation and the prosecution was warranted, albeit the jury did not consider that the charges had been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

"The evidence bore the characteristics of a Rubik's Cube, capable of bearing myriad conclusions, depending on the jury's view of the evidence.

"But those were conclusions for the jury to reach, and not the prosecution.

"Having considered all of the relevant factors, I am satisfied that there is no basis for exercising my discretion in the applicants favour.

"The applications are therefore dismissed."

Irish Independent

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