Saturday 24 February 2018

Rugby star Jackson to 'object to rape case evidence'

Paddy Jackson Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Paddy Jackson Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Alan Erwin and Michael McHugh

One of two Irish rugby stars facing rape charges will be objecting to evidence from three witnesses, a court has heard.

Rugby player Paddy Jackson's lawyer confirmed yesterday plans to challenge their testimonies as a date was set for a hearing to test the strength of the prosecution case.

Mr Jackson (25) and 24-year-old Stuart Olding are accused of sexual offences against the same woman at a house in south Belfast in June last year.

They are now to challenge claims against them at a preliminary inquiry (PI) listed for a full-day hearing on October 17.

A video-recorded account given by the complainant may also be examined at that hearing, it was revealed.

Mr Jackson, of Oakleigh Park, Belfast, is charged with one count of rape and one count of sexual assault. Mr Olding, of Ardenlee Street, Belfast, is charged with two counts of rape.

Stuart Olding Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Stuart Olding Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Both players strenuously deny all allegations made against them.

Fly-half Mr Jackson has been capped for Ireland 25 times, while centre Mr Olding has played four times.

But the stars, also team mates for Ulster Rugby, are not being considered for selection while court proceedings continue.

Also facing charges as part of the same investigation are 25-year-olds Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison.

Mr McIlroy, from Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, is charged with one count of exposure, while Mr Harrison, of Manse Road in the city, is accused of perverting the course of justice and withholding information. They also deny those allegations.

According to the charges, Mr Harrison made a witness statement to police, lying about his dealings with the alleged rape victim, and omitted information relevant to the investigation.

None of the accused were present at Belfast Magistrates' Court yesterday as lawyers fixed a date for committal proceedings.

Mr Jackson's solicitor, Joe McVeigh, told Deputy District Judge Liam McStay: "There are three witnesses objected to."

He also outlined potential plans to scrutinise claims made by the complainant in an Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) process. Mr McVeigh sought assurances that video facilities would be available to play her account if required.

Lawyers Joe Rice, representing Mr Olding, and Tony Caher, for Mr Harrison, confirmed they had received documents and exhibits previously requested.

Mr Rice sought assurances that the Public Prosecution Service would not handle the case in a "piecemeal" manner.

The lawyers claimed material relating to the case had so far been provided by prosecutors in a piecemeal fashion and paperwork was still to be received.

With solicitor Pat Kelly now on record for Mr McIlroy, Judge McStay agreed to hold two further reviews before the full preliminary inquiry hearing.

The PI is designed to test the quality of the evidence against the men and whether there is enough to send them to a higher court for trial.

Urging all legal representatives to ensure they have carried out the necessary preparations in advance, the judge said: "I don't want this case going to a PI and the ABE to be tested on the morning."

Irish Independent

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