Saturday 21 September 2019

Paddy Jackson 'paid an enormous price for the events of that evening', court told during legal fees application

Application to cover Mr Jackson's legal costs took place in Belfast court today

Paddy Jackson. Photo: PA Wire
Paddy Jackson. Photo: PA Wire
Eimear Cotter

Eimear Cotter

AN application to cover Paddy Jackson's legal fees has been adjourned for consideration by a judge in Belfast.

Mr Jackson (26) was acquitted of rape and sexual assault in March following a marathon nine-week trial.

Three other co-defendants - including Mr Jackson's Ireland and Ulster Rugby team-mate Stuart Olding (25) - were also acquitted on charges they faced arising from a party in Mr Jackson's Belfast home in June 2016.

This afternoon, Jackson's lawyer, Brendan Kelly QC, told Belfast Crown Court that his client had "paid an enormous price for the events of that evening".

Mr Jackson privately funded his defence, and his legal bill which allegedly amounted to more than €115,000, has already been settled.

However, he was seeking to retrieve this money and had made an application in an attempt to have the costs covered by the Public Prosecution Service.

Judge Patricia Smyth said she was reserving her decision in this matter. She said a decision would "not be soon" to pressures of work.

In his submission, Mr Kelly said that, during the trial, those advising Mr Jackson had informed him his income and capital assets was such that he was "not entitled to legal aid" and would "not qualify for legal aid".

Indeed, any application for legal aid by Mr Jackson would have "invited more scorn", in certain spheres outside the court, Mr Kelly said.

He said that all he was asking the court to do was to "restore the defendant through funding to the status quo".

Mr Kelly said that Mr Jackson had "paid an enormous price for the events of that evening, despite what we would say was a resounding acquittal".

"He is without employment. He is without an offer of employment", Mr Kelly said.

In relation to the allegations against Mr Jackson, Mr Kelly said his client had never been given an explanation as to why it took the public prosecution service 13 months to charge him.

This was "inexcusable, that a man of good character would have to wait 13 months to find out his fate", Mr Kelly said.

He said Mr Jackson, who received half his salary from the IRFU during the trial, had already paid his legal bill.

The rugby player had been greatly assisted by his parents, the court heard, who had recently retired and who had helped him meet the legal bills by using "substantial sums" from their retirement fund.

Mr Kelly said he had tried to estimate how long it would have taken to try Mr Jackson without his co-defendants, and the estimate was "a week and a half to two weeks".

He said that this trial had attracted an "unparalleled level of public interest" and as a result, all the lawyers were forced to deal with the "persistent pollution of the proceedings via Twitter and social media".

Mr Kelly said that the "uncontrolled intrusion into the fairness of the proceedings had led to Mr Jackson being further out of pocket". 

In his response, Toby Hedworth QC, said Mr Jackson had not been deprived of his livelihood because of the prosecution.

"He was deprived because the public became aware of certain things he was saying and doing in the conduct of his private life", said Mr Hedworth,"that's a matter for him and his employer, not a consideration for the public prosecution service".

Mr Hedworth said that unless Mr Jackson's legal team can show some mala fides, some fault or some inappropriate conduct on behalf of the prosecution, then Mr Jackson "should not be able to recover his costs from the PPS".

Mr Jackson was not in court for the hearing, but his parents were in the public gallery.

His former Ulster team-mate, Stuart Olding, had been covering his own legal costs at the start of the trial.

However, halfway through the trial his barrister asked that he be granted legal aid for the remainder of the hearing, as he no longer had sufficient funds to cover the costs.

After she asked to be provided with evidence of this - such as bank statements - Judge Smyth granted legal aid for Mr Olding.

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