Rugby stars in court to hear they'll face trial on rape charges
Two Ireland and Ulster rugby stars are to stand trial on charges of rape, a court has ruled.
Paddy Jackson (25) and Stuart Olding (24) appeared before Belfast Magistrates' Court yesterday for a preliminary investigation into the accusations against them.
It was the first time they were required to attend court proceedings since being charged.
After considering legal arguments from prosecution and defence barristers, District Judge George Conner ruled there was enough evidence to return the pair for Crown Court trial.
They were required to stand in the body of the court, alongside another two co-accused, while the charges against them were read.
Both men are accused of raping the same woman at a property in south Belfast in June of last year.
Mr Olding, of Ardenlee Street, Belfast, is charged with two counts of rape.
Mr Jackson, from Oakleigh Park, Belfast, is accused of one count of rape and one of sexual assault.
Fly-half Mr Jackson has been capped for Ireland 25 times while centre Mr Olding has played four times. They are also established stars for Ulster Rugby.
The Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby have said the two men will not play again until the court proceedings are concluded. Given the length of time proceedings take in Northern Ireland, it is likely both will miss the entirety of this season at the very least.
Two other men were also returned for trial on charges connected with the incident.
Blane McIlroy (25), from Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, is accused of one count of exposure.
Rory Harrison (25), from Manse Road, Belfast, is charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information.
All four were released on their own bail of £500 (€560). A trial date has yet to be fixed.