Rugby star gives 'not guilty' plea to rape charge
Irish rugby international Paddy Jackson has appeared in court where he denied raping and sexually assaulting a woman last summer.
Jackson appeared at Belfast Crown Court alongside two co-accused, who are also facing charges arising from the alleged sexual assault. Jackson (25), from Oakleigh Park in Belfast, replied "not guilty" when the two charges were put to him - namely raping and sexually assaulting a woman on June 28, 2016.
Also appearing alongside Jackson was Blane McIlroy (25), from Royal Lodge Road in Belfast, and Rory Harrison (25), from Manse Road in Belfast. McIlroy was charged with exposing his genitals on June 28 last year "intending that someone would see them and be caused alarm or distress".
Harrison faces two charges, namely perverting the course of justice on dates between June 27 and July 1, and withholding information on dates between June 27 and October 5, 2016.
Harrison denied making a witness statement to police in which he lied about his dealings with the female complainant and omitted information relevant to the investigation. He also denied a charge of knowing rape had been committed and failing to give that information to a constable.
All three defendants entered "not guilty" pleas to all charges. When Judge Patricia Smyth revealed the proposed date for trial of January 22, 2018, Jackson's barrister asked for an earlier date as his client "has been unable contractually to work... and the sooner the matter is tried, the sooner that particular matter can be resolved". The judge said this was not possible.
A fourth co-accused Stuart Olding (24), who is Jackson's international team-mate, is due to appear at the same court later this week.