Thursday 19 September 2019

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding lose privacy action against BBC over rape claim reporting

Paddy Jackson (left) and Stuart Olding. Photo: PA
Paddy Jackson (left) and Stuart Olding. Photo: PA

Alan Erwin

Judgment is to be entered against former Ireland and Ulster rugby stars Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding in a privacy lawsuit, the High Court has heard.

The players are also to pay £20,000 costs as part of a settlement reached in their action against the BBC.

The outcome was hailed as a vindication of the broadcaster's journalism.

Mr Jackson and Mr Olding, who were both unanimously cleared of raping the same woman, sued the BBC over initial coverage of their questioning by police.

Writs seeking damages for misuse of private information had been issued after details were published online in November 2016 - months before charges were brought.

Their legal teams contended they weren't given sufficient notice for a right of reply before the story appeared.

They claimed it was a private matter and raised issues about how the information was obtained.

The BBC defended the claim, contending its reporting was factual and in the public interest, due to the two players' profile, interest in provincial and international rugby, and the nature of the police investigation.

In March Mr Jackson, 26, was acquitted of rape and sexual assault of a woman at his Belfast home in June 2016.

Mr Olding, 25, was also cleared of raping the same complainant.

Amid controversy over social media and text messages which emerged during the high-profile trial, a subsequent conduct review resulted in both players having their contracts revoked by the IRFU.

It was expected that their civil actions would resume following their acquittals in the criminal case.

But in court on Wednesday counsel for the BBC, Richard Coghlin, announced proceedings were being brought to an end on terms outlined.

"We ask the court to enter judgment in favour of the defendant against both plaintiffs," he said.

The barrister also asked Mrs Justice Keegan to make an order for Mr Jackson and Mr Olding to pay £20,000 plus VAT towards the BBC's costs.

Peter Girvan, representing the players, raised no issue with the terms.

"Mr Coghlin has put the position very fairly and accurately," he said.

Following the outcome BBC Northern Ireland's Head of News, Kathleen Carragher, said: "We argued throughout this case that our reporting was responsible, accurate, in the public interest and observed the BBC guidelines.

"We are pleased that the players have accepted this outcome and have also agreed a contribution to our legal costs."

Belfast Telegraph

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